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Category Archives: TRAVEL

Cape Zanpa 残波岬 – Okinawa, Japan

I love lighthouses! In some of our travels, we were fortunate to be able to visit some like the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse at Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan , the Sullivan Island Lighthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, spotted the Naha Harbour Lighthouse during our whale watching here in Okinawa, and my favorite lighthouse to date, the fascinating Cape Lookout Lighthouse in Southern Outer Banks in North Carolina, which took us an hour drive plus a boat ride to marvel at its beauty.

And roughly a week ago, after some insisting to go out on a beautiful sunny spring day, hubby brought me to Cape Zanpa in Yomitan to see the Cape Zanpa Lighthouse. It was under construction and no climb to the lighthouse was allowed which was to my dismay. The lighthouse itself was not very impressive but it has its own beauty in simple white hue surrounded by what looked like a marvelous formation of volcanic rocks. It is best admired when viewed close to the cliff showing color contrasts between the Okinawan blue sky and clear turquoise water and the picturesque landscape. Hubby thought he was brought back to Scotland with the wonderful experience.

Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan. The statue on the right is Taiki, the first man from Okinawa to be sent to China to establish a tribute trade.

Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan. The statue on the right is Taiki, the first man from Okinawa to be sent to China to establish a tribute trade.

The marvelous formation of volcanic rocks surrounding Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The marvelous formation of volcanic rocks surrounding Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

A monument and a fort at Cape Zanpa in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

A monument and a fort at Cape Zanpa in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The picturesque cliff at Cape Zanpa in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The picturesque cliff at Cape Zanpa in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

Cape Zanpa Lighthouse in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

 

One feature of Cape Zanpa is the Zanpa Misaki Recreation Plaza with shops, restaurants, a playround and a petting zoo with a giant Shisa guarding the plaza’s entrance. The shore is also worth a walk when the tide is low. Cape Zanpa is must see when you are in Okinawa. It is now one of my favorites with its scenic beauty leaving an unforgettable imprint in my memory forgetting that Cape Zanpa is well known as a suicide cliff in Okinawa.

The giant Shisa guarding the entrance to Zanpa Misaki Recreation Plaza at Cape Zanpa in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

The giant Shisa guarding the entrance to Zanpa Misaki Recreation Plaza at Cape Zanpa in Yomitan, Okinawa, Japan.

Cape Zanpa shore on a low tide.

Cape Zanpa shore on a low tide.

Another view of Cape Zanpa shore on a low tide.

Another view of Cape Zanpa shore on a low tide.

 

 

 

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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Okinawa

 

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Ocean Expo Park – Okinawa, Japan

Perhaps, everyone here and who had been in Okinawa, has at some point in their stay, visited the Ocean Expo Park. Who hasn’t? It is after all the most popular tourist destination in the island next to Shuri Castle. However, most of those who visit only have the Churaumi Aquarium in mind forgetting that it is a massive amusement park with featured facilities that require an entire day to explore. Spring is here and what better way to spend the days than having an adventure. If you are planning to visit or considering a re-visit, here is hoping this post will help.

The Central Gate and Fountain Square at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The Central Gate and Fountain Square at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

Flower Whale Shark at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

Flower Whale Shark at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

 

NATIVE OKINAWAN VILLAGE and OMORO ARBORETUM - A glimpse into the traditional design of an Okinawan village and the old way of life of the local.

Native Okinawan Village and Omoro Arboretum at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

Native Okinawan Village and Omoro Arboretum at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

A native Okinawan house featured at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

A native Okinawan house featured at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The kitchen of a native Okinawan house featured at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The kitchen of a native Okinawan house featured at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

 

CHURAUMI AQUARIUM - The most popular aquarium boosts an approximate land area of 10,000 m² with a building four-stories high. It proudly houses 77 exhibition tanks being the Kuroshio Sea tank as the main attraction having the volume capacity of 7,500 cubic meters containing three whale sharks and a group of manta rays. Read previous blog post HERE.

The Kuroshio Sea Tank is perhaps the main attraction at Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu District in Okinawa, Japan. It has a volume capacity of 7,500 cubic meters housing three whale sharks and a group of manta rays.

The Kuroshio Sea Tank is perhaps the main attraction at Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu District in Okinawa, Japan. It has a volume capacity of 7,500 cubic meters housing three whale sharks and a group of manta rays.

The three whale sharks inside the Kuroshio Sea Tank at Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu District in Okinawa, Japan.

The three whale sharks inside the Kuroshio Sea Tank at Churaumi Aquarium in Motobu District in Okinawa, Japan.

 

SEA TURTLE POOL -  Proudly housing 5 species of turtles out of the 7 (8?) species known in the world is the park Sea Turtle Pool. Hawksbill turtle, Loggerhead sea turtle, Green sea turtle, Kemp’s Ridley and the Black turtle can be viewed underwater from the underground viewing room. Admission here is free and enjoy guessing how old these turtles here! ;)

The turtle pool viewed from the underground viewing room at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The turtle pool viewed from the underground viewing room at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The turtle pool viewed from the underground viewing room at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The turtle pool viewed from the underground viewing room at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

 

MANATEE POOL – The manatees at the park are “goodwill ambassadors” from Mexico. They are mostly fed with lettuce and they are somehow creepy looking like they are staring at your every moment. Of course, they are smart mammals (or mermaids), what to expect?

The manatee inside its pool viewed from the underground viewing room at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The manatee inside its pool viewed from the underground viewing room at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

 

TROPICAL DREAM CENTER – A wonderfully manicured 6-hectare garden of more than 2,000 orchids and polished beautifully with tropical and subtropical plants, Tropical Dream Center is a secret paradise overlooked by most visitors in the midst of Okinawa’s Ocean Park in Motobu Town It offers a self-guided tour with a choice of approximately 1 hour Standard Course and an approximately half-hour Short Course tour. Read previous blog HERE.

Tropical Dream Center 海洋博公園・熱帯ドリームセンター –at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan

Tropical Dream Center 海洋博公園・熱帯ドリームセンター –at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan

Tropical Dream Center 海洋博公園・熱帯ドリームセンター –at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan

Tropical Dream Center 海洋博公園・熱帯ドリームセンター –at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan

 

STEP FOUNTAIN –  A quite small garden with step fountain offering a panorama view of the park from the top. It is not well-maintained but the serenity is perfect.

The step fountain at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The step fountain at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

 

DOLPHIN LAGOON and DOLPHIN SHOW  - Perhaps most enjoyed by kids is the dolphin lagoon where they can see the smart dolphins up close and personal. A 20-minute live dolphin show, which is absolutely free, is also enjoyed by everyone at the Okichan Theater. Bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales and pacific white-sided dolphins are the stars in their water stage.

Most enjoyed by kids is the dolphin lagoon where they can see the smart dolphins up close and personal at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県 .

Most enjoyed by kids is the dolphin lagoon where they can see the smart dolphins up close and personal at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県 .

The dolphin lagoon and dolphin show at Okichan Theater at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The dolphin lagoon and dolphin show at Okichan Theater at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The dolphin lagoon and dolphin show at Okichan Theater at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

The dolphin lagoon and dolphin show at Okichan Theater at Ocean Expo Park in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan. 本部 朝基 , 沖縄県

 

Check on Google Street View below for an additional information and perspective :

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Okinawa

 

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Sakura 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 – Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa is like a box of chocolate – an island-paradise butterscotch, culture-rich truffle, warmhearted-community caramel and, for a limited time every year, a must-indulgence Cherry-Blossom loco dip – and you are certainly going to love what you are going to get!

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

SAKURA and NAKIJIN CASTLE 

Last year’s Cherry Blossom at Mt. Yaedake in Motubo , which was our first, was a blast. Ha, the joy of that wonderful memory. This year, hubby and I capped the season with a Sakura Festival at an illuminated Nakijin Castle. The experience was a delight. Not only is Nakijin Castle Ruins a designated national historic site and inscribed on the Register of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but for ONLY two weeks and two weeks ONLY during cherry blossom season every year, the site is open at night until 9 and a colorful display of attractive lights illuminate the treasured cultural property. 

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 and the Nakijin Castle Wall 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 and the Nakijin Castle Wall 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

With the Ryukyu King and Queen during the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

With the Ryukyu King and Queen during the Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

Upon stepping inside the castle walls, full cherry blossoms tunnel the entrance leading the way to the top with pathways lit up with candles. It was my personal favorite moment.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in full at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in full at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in full at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in full at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

A pathway of Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 and candle lights at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

A pathway of Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 and candle lights at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

It was quite a climb to the top but who cares? It was pathway of sakura and candle lights to Okinawa heavens! 

A pathway of Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 and candle lights at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

A pathway of Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 and candle lights at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

NAKIJIN CASTLE ILLUMINATION

At the top of the stairways is a marvelous panorama view of East China Sea with a stunning dusk lights in the background, making us wonder how this castle must be like in its hay days. The illuminated castle wall remains also adds charm to the scenery and although there are no cherry trees at the castle’s courtyards, the colorful lighting turns everything phenomenal.

Nakijin Castle Illumination 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Nakijin Castle Illumination 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Nakijin Castle Illumination 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Nakijin Castle Illumination 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Colorful lights illuminating the Nakijin Castle Courtyard 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Colorful lights illuminating the Nakijin Castle Courtyard 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Colorful lights illuminating the Nakijin Castle Courtyard 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

Colorful lights illuminating the Nakijin Castle Courtyard 今帰仁城 during a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

It was very crowded, which was not a surprise, but we managed to squeeze in some photos of ourselves together. After all, who else gets the chance to live this moment?

Witnessing a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Witnessing a Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

The magic does not end there. Cherry blossoms line up the road going down the hill as we drove back home. Now, that is a charmer!

 

A must-indulgence Cherry-Blossom loco dip, what’s in your box of chocolate?

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 line up the road going down the hill at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura) 桜 line up the road going down the hill at Nakijin Castle 今帰仁城 in Okinawa, Japan.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Okinawa

 

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Gion 祇園 – Kyoto, Japan

Geishas at Gion! 

Admittedly, when initially planning for our Kyoto trip, Gion District first came to mind because of geikos, or what we commonly know as geishas. Well, aren’t we all guilty? Of course, we all blame that to Hollywood, thanks to the huge success of the Memoirs. Intrigued and just plain curious about this famous and highly elegant district of Gion, hubby and I paraded every corner with high hopes (and desperation) of meeting a real geiko or maiko along our wayApparently, we were not alone. We have the entire flock of tourists unanimously looking for one. We tourists were just being, oh well, tourists.

HANAMI-KOJI  (花見小路)

The main street of Gion is Hanami-koji, world famous for its Kyoto style houses which are also very established restaurants, tea houses and hotels. We had dinner in one of these restaurants and boy, it was NOT at all cheap.

Hanami-koji 花見小路, the main street of Gion District, world famous for its Kyoto style houses.

Hanami-koji 花見小路, the main street of Gion District, world famous for its Kyoto style houses.

One of the traditional Kyoto houses around Hanami-koji 花見小路, the main street of Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the traditional Kyoto houses around Hanami-koji 花見小路, the main street of Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the traditional Kyoto houses which now serves as restaurants around Hanami-koji 花見小路, the main street of Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the traditional Kyoto houses which now serves as restaurants around Hanami-koji 花見小路, the main street of Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

 

SHINBASHI DORI (新橋通)

The Gion Shinbashi area began as a traditional tea house and entertainment district but is now at present filled with shops that specialize in high quality art and antiques. It is a beautiful cobble-stoned Shinbashi Street, which runs along the cherry tree-lined Shirakawa river.

The famous Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

The famous Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

The famous cobbled-street Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

The famous cobbled-street Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Shirakawa River 白川 at Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Shirakawa River 白川 at Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Japanese women in kimono at the famous cobbled-street Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Japanese women in kimono at the famous cobbled-street Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the traditional Kyoto houses at the famous cobbled-street Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the traditional Kyoto houses at the famous cobbled-street Shinabashidori (新橋通) in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

 

ISSEN YOSHOKU 

Issen Yoshoku is both the name of the dish and the name of the restaurant in one corner of Gion District. The dish is a wheat flour based batter with chopped scallions, egg and thinly sliced pork, cooked and folded and served with sauce. It is quite famous especially among the locals because it is said that the owner of the restaurant, Tatsuo Kinoshita, who started it about 30 years ago, wanted to serve the original Western food in Japan which during the Taisho Period (early 1900′s) would cost only about 1 US cent. Also, the symbol of this restaurant is very interesting.

The symbol of Issen Yoshoku 壹銭洋食 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

The symbol of Issen Yoshoku 壹銭洋食 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Issen Yoshoku 壹銭洋食 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Issen Yoshoku 壹銭洋食 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Issen Yoshoku 壹銭洋食 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Issen Yoshoku 壹銭洋食 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

 

MINAMI-ZA (南座) 

The only remaining Kabuki Theatre in Kyoto out of the seven officially licensed is the Minami-za. This theatre was built in 1929 and was registered as a Japanese Tangible Cultural Property in 1996.

Minamiza 南座 , the only remaining Kabuki Theatre out of the seven officially licensed in Kyoto, Japan.

Minamiza 南座 , the only remaining Kabuki Theatre out of the seven officially licensed in Kyoto, Japan.

 

PONTOCHO (先斗町)

Another famous must-visit place in Kyoto is the Pontocho. It is a very narrow alley that runs from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori and just west of the Kamo River. It has probably the most dining options in all of Kyoto which requires a fat wallet, otherwise it is simply a must-see for its traditional architecture.

Pontocho 先斗町 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Pontocho 先斗町 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Pontocho 先斗町 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Pontocho 先斗町 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Pontocho 先斗町 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

Pontocho 先斗町 in Gion District in Kyoto, Japan.

 

KAMO RIVER 鴨川 and SHIJO OHASHI 日本語

The Kamo River flows through the city of Kyoto from north to south. It looks really clean and certainly most romantic at night especially with the beautifully-lit restaurants on the river side and when viewed over at Shijo Ohashi.

The beautiful Kamo River 鴨川 lined with romantically-lit restaurants viewed over at  Shijo Ohashi 日本語 in Kyoto, Japan.

The beautiful Kamo River 鴨川 lined with romantically-lit restaurants viewed over at Shijo Ohashi 日本語 in Kyoto, Japan.

 

We were not very lucky to see a geisha or a maiko. However, we sure were a witness to the captivating beauty and high sophistication of Gion - Japan’s prime geisha district and Kyōto’s most famous (and best preserved) traditional neighborhood. There was an option to dress up like one (some shops offer rental and make up services) but nah, I will leave that adventure until next time. Maybe.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Kyoto

 

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Okinawa World – Okinawa, Japan

One of my favorite trips in Okinawa is the visit to the Valley of Gangala. It caught quite a stir among my friends because of a, for lack of a better word, “unique rock formation”. However, just right across the valley is the famous Okinawa World, a theme park that features things local. It is equally worth the visit and equally my favorite as well, taking pride in its Habu Park, a small village and shops reminiscent of the old Okinawa, and the Gyokusendyo Cave.

Okinawa World - Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa World – Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa World - Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa World – Okinawa, Japan

The small village reminiscent of the old Okinawa at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

The small village reminiscent of the old Okinawa at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

The Habu Sake Factory at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

The Habu Sake Factory at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

The Habu Sake Factory and Souvenir Shop at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

The Habu Sake Factory and Souvenir Shop at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

The theme park’s main attraction and unbelievably an amazing work of nature is the Gyokusendo. It is a 5000 meter long cave that was formed approximately 300,000 years ago. It is well and beautifully lit with pathways over a river that flows continuously.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

Gyokusendyo Cave at Okinawa World in Okinawa, Japan.

 

Take Highway 58 into Naha City and then take Highway 329 going east. Next, go south on Highway 507 and then turn onto Highway 131.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Okinawa

 

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Underwater Observatory (Busena Marine Park) – Okinawa, Japan

If you have a husband like mine who hates the beach as much as you love it, you have got to be creative. In the middle of some planning for a short trip to the northern part of Okinawa, hubby came across some information about an underwater observatory and had been meaning to visit. Imagine my excitement! I had to trade a finger or two just to drag him to the water but at that very moment, the universe connived. And when rare moments such as these knock, you strike the iron real hard.  

The underwater observatory tower is located in Busena Marine Park in Nago City, about an hour drive on Highway 58 from Ginowan. The beach line alone is stunning. We were not properly dressed for the beach but it was a perfect sunny day to enjoy in autumn. The sand was beautiful in white and the blue sky was a marvelous reflection of the crystal water Okinawa is famous for.

The beautiful beach line at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The beautiful beach line at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

 

The underwater observatory tower is located 170 meters away from the shore near Busena Cape accessible by free shuttle bus at the Okinawa Busena Resort that departs every 20 minutes from the Beach House to the tower and vice versa. It was a pretty day so we decided to skip the ride and enjoyed the view as we walked approaching the observatory instead.

The Beach House that serves as the terminal for the shuttle bus at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The Beach House that serves as the terminal for the shuttle bus at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The shuttle bus at Okinawa Busena Resort that departs every 20 minutes from the Beach House to the observatory tower and vice versa.

The shuttle bus at Okinawa Busena Resort that departs every 20 minutes from the Beach House to the observatory tower and vice versa.

Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Approaching the Underwater Observatory Tower at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Approaching the Underwater Observatory Tower at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The Underwater Observatory Tower at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The Underwater Observatory Tower at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

 

The observatory allows visitors a 360 degree view of the marine life with a spiral corridor that descends 5 meters deep without getting wet. It is like getting inside a giant tank with glass windows open to the underwater world. As geeks and proud Whovians ourselves, we thought it was the closest we can get to a Tardis :)

The Underwater Observatory Tower at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The Underwater Observatory Tower at Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

The spiral corridor at the underwater observatory tower descends 5 meters giving visitors a 360 degree view of marine life.

The spiral corridor at the underwater observatory tower descends 5 meters giving visitors a 360 degree view of marine life.

Exploring the marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Exploring the marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Exploring the marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Exploring the marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

A peek of marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

A peek of marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Finding Nemo 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Finding Nemo 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Finding Nemo 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Finding Nemo 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

A peek of marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

A peek of marine world 5 meters deep through the glass windows at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

View of the fishes from the tower at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

View of the fishes from the tower at the Underwater Observatory in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

 

There are also glass bottom tours available but we thought it was redundant after having a wonderful time at the underwater observatory. The whale-shaped glass bottom boats were pretty cool though.

View looking out from the Underwater Observatory Tower in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan. Whale-shaped glass bottom boat is seen in this photo.

View looking out from the Underwater Observatory Tower in Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan. Whale-shaped glass bottom boat is seen in this photo.

Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 is a part of the Busena Terrace Beach Resort, a luxury beach resort hotel in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Busena Marine Park ブセナ海中公園 is a part of the Busena Terrace Beach Resort, a luxury beach resort hotel in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

 

TRAVELLER’S NOTE:

Busena Marine Park is a part of the Busena Terrace Beach Resort, a luxury beach resort hotel. A little walk up to the resort’s restaurant will surprise you with a breathtaking view of the cape and the observatory tower. It is Okinawa’s pride considering it has hosted the G8 Leaders’ Summit in 2000 with the world’s famous leaders like US (Ex) President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin just to name a few who have enjoyed the beauty of this sweet cape paradise.

View of the Underwater Observatory from Busena Terrace Beach Resort restaurant in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

View of the Underwater Observatory from Busena Terrace Beach Resort restaurant in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Overlooking the Underwater Observatory from Busena Terrace Beach Resort restaurant in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Overlooking the Underwater Observatory from Busena Terrace Beach Resort restaurant in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan.

Busena Terrace Beach Resort hosted the G8 Leaders' Summit in 2000 with the world's famous leaders like US (Ex) President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin just to name a few who has graced this facility.

Busena Terrace Beach Resort hosted the G8 Leaders’ Summit in 2000 with the world’s famous leaders like US (Ex) President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin just to name a few who has graced this facility.

Busena Terrace Beach Resort hosted the G8 Leaders' Summit in 2000 with the world's famous leaders like US (Ex) President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin just to name a few who has graced this facility.

Busena Terrace Beach Resort hosted the G8 Leaders’ Summit in 2000 with the world’s famous leaders like US (Ex) President Bill Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin just to name a few who has graced this facility.

Now, how awesome this treat was on my birthday? PRETTY AWESOME :)

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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Okinawa

 

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Southeast Botanical Gardens – Okinawa, Japan

A quick Sunday getaway for me and my husband was spent at Southeast Botanical Gardens in Okinawa City. We have been hearing good stories since it reopened in July 2013 after being shut three years earlier, and our first sight right past the entrance proved all the stories right. This local paradise, originally opened in 1970, is peaceful and it is very surprising to see such a breathtaking beauty hidden at the heart of the city, just a short drive outside Kadena Air Base Gate 3. This botanical park is divided into Water Park and Botanical Garden, housing about 1,300 tropical and subtropical plant species.

WATER PARK

It is advisable to start at the Water Park first since it has hillsides and is quite a walk, unless you want to avail of the tram for 500 yen. I enjoyed feeding the carp and koi the most and fish food is available on vending machines for 100 yen a box. It was early autumn when we visited and we missed a spectacular carpet of lotus flowers which normally blooms in summer. However, to make up, a short climb to where the totem pole is offers a picturesque view of the park, overlooking bridges and ponds.

The Water Park at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A floating garden on a lotus pond at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A floating garden on a lotus pond at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Random art work at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Random art work at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Random art work at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Random art work at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Koi and carp feeding at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Koi and carp feeding at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Fish food in boxes are available on a vending machine at 100 yen for koi and carp feeding at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Fish food in boxes are available on a vending machine at 100 yen for koi and carp feeding at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Fishing at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Fishing at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The totem pole at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The totem pole at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The picturesque view overlooking a pond and a bridge at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The picturesque view overlooking a pond and a bridge at the Water Park in Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Overlooking a picturesque view of Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Overlooking a picturesque view of Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Some tropical and subtropical flowers on exhibit at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Some tropical and subtropical flowers on exhibit at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Some tropical and subtropical flowers on exhibit at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Some tropical and subtropical flowers on exhibit at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

 

BOTANICAL GARDEN

After a long stroll at the Water Park, we found the Botanical Garden to be errr, quite disappointingly small. We were too overwhelmed with the Water Park but the garden is a haven to relax. Find time to pause and watch the palm trees sway and be reminded how beautiful Okinawa is.

A beautiful row of palm trees at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A beautiful row of palm trees at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Beautiful palm trees at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Beautiful palm trees at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Lotus flower at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Lotus flower at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A Dragon Tree at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A Dragon Tree at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A baobab tree at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A baobab tree at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

 

DINE and SHOP

Dining and shopping at Southeast Botanical Garden is worth a mention because I am in love with the view and their wall garden.

A spectacular view at a dining facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

A spectacular view at a dining facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Dining facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Dining facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Dining facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Dining facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The wall garden or vertical garden inside a dining and shopping facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The wall garden or vertical garden inside a dining and shopping facility at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

 

TRAVELER’S NOTE

Southeast Botanical Gardens is open from 9:00 to 22:00 (last admission 21:00) and with a general admission of only ¥ 1,500 and an easily accessible location, it is truly worth a visit. Even the Okinawan shisa below agrees.

Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The genki shisa at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

The genki shisa at Southeast Botanical Garden in Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan. (東南植物楽園 Tōnan Shokubutsu Rakuen)

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Okinawa

 

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Despicable Me Gru and Purple Minion on Halloween 2013 – Okinawa, Japan

This year, hubby and I decided to be characters from the movie Despicable Me 2, Gru and his purple evil minion. He bought the mask and scarf online and improvised on his jacket. I bought my tutu online as well since work got in the way of being crafty but did the minion shirt myself. I bought a purple shirt from Uniqlo and used felt cloth from a 100 yen shop and got creative!

Hubby and I as Gru and his Purple Evil Minion from Despicable Me movie for Halloween 2013.

Hubby and I as Gru and his Purple Evil Minion from Despicable Me movie for Halloween 2013.

Hubby as Gru from Despicable Me movie for Halloween 2013.

Hubby as Gru from Despicable Me movie for Halloween 2013.

Purple Minion from Despicable Me movie for Halloween 2013.

Purple Minion from Despicable Me movie for Halloween 2013.

The Hendricks, who we consider as our extended family here in Okinawa, were also having fun with their characters. Steve was a redneck, his wife Yuko was a hippie, and their son Takumi was a riddler. Steve Jr, came in his ROTC uniform (not in the photo).

Halloween 2013 with the Hendricks Family in Okinawa, Japan.

Halloween 2013 with the Hendricks Family in Okinawa, Japan.

The hosts, Christa and Chris, were excellent. The small craft details around their house for Halloween was really impressive. We are very certain we had so much fun. Happy Halloween 2013!

Christa hosting Halloween 2013 in Okinawa, Japan.

Christa hosting Halloween 2013 in Okinawa, Japan.

Halloween themed hallway.

Halloween themed hallway.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Okinawa

 

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Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社 – Kyoto, Japan

We paid two visits to Yasaka-Jinja, one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto, Japan. Conveniently located in the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue) in Gion District in Higashiyama area, Yasaka shrine is renowned for its month-long festival called Gion Matsuri which started in 869 A.D. when the mikoshi or the divine palanquin of Gion Shrine were paraded through the streets of Kyoto to ward off an epidemic and the same practice has lived on until today. It is also a popular pilgrimage for Hatsumōde in the first week of January.

The Main Gate at Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社. The shrine is located in the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue) in Gion District in Higashiyama area, Kyoto, Japan and is renowned for its month-long festival called Gion Matsuri 祇園祭.

The Main Gate at Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社. The shrine is located in the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue) in Gion District in Higashiyama area, Kyoto, Japan and is renowned for its month-long festival called Gion Matsuri 祇園祭.

The Main Gate at Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社. The shrine is located in the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue) in Gion District in Higashiyama area, Kyoto, Japan and is renowned for its month-long festival called Gion Matsuri 祇園祭.

The Main Gate at Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社. The shrine is located in the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue) in Gion District in Higashiyama area, Kyoto, Japan and is renowned for its month-long festival called Gion Matsuri 祇園祭.

Hubby in front of the Buden Stage at Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社 in Gion, Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

Hubby in front of the Buden Stage at Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社 in Gion, Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

A beautiful kibune at Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社 - Kyoto, Japan.

A beautiful kibune at Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社 – Kyoto, Japan.

 

Yasaka-Jinja is believed to be built in the mid 9th century and has long been called “Gion-sha” or “Kansin-in until it was changed to its present name. According to Japan National Tourism Organization, the Main Hall of the shrine called yasaka-jinjan honden is designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. It is said to be a rare building in the shinden-zukuri Yoshiki or the Gion-zukuri style which is only used for aristocrats.

The Main Hall of Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社in Gion, Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan is called yasaka-jinja honden. It  is said to be a rare building in the shinden-zukuri Yoshiki or the Gion-zukuri style which is only used for aristocrats.

The Main Hall of Yasaka-Jinja 八坂神社in Gion, Higashiyama in Kyoto, Japan is called yasaka-jinja honden. It is said to be a rare building in the shinden-zukuri Yoshiki or the Gion-zukuri style which is only used for aristocrats.

 

But probably the most interesting feature of Yasaka Shrine is its subshrine called Utsukushi-gozensha. Utsukushi which means “beautiful”, gozen means “women” and sha means “shrine”. And in case you did not get the memo, this is the shrine for beautiful women. It is very popular with the apprentice geisha (maiko) and is most visited by people working in the beauty and cosmetics industry or simply those who are praying for, oh well, beauty. Catch a few drops of water from the fountain and pat them on your face, pray at the shrine and write your wish for beauty on the small wooden ‘ema’ plaque.

Utsukushi-gozensha 美御前社at Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社is the shrine for beautiful women very popular with the apprentice geisha (maiko) and is most visited by people working in the beauty and cosmetics industry.

Utsukushi-gozensha 美御前社at Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社is the shrine for beautiful women very popular with the apprentice geisha (maiko) and is most visited by people working in the beauty and cosmetics industry.

Beautiful Japanese women dressed in summer kimono trying to choose which ‘ema’ plaque to write their beauty wishes on at Utsukushi-gozensha 美御前社at Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社in Kyoto, Japan.

Beautiful Japanese women dressed in summer kimono trying to choose which ‘ema’ plaque to write their beauty wishes on at Utsukushi-gozensha 美御前社at Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社in Kyoto, Japan.

 

For a simple treat, below is a virtual tour of Yasaka Shrine so please enjoy:

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Kyoto

 

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Ryōzen Kannon 霊山観音 – Kyoto, Japan

Every corner and bend of Kyoto offers something interesting and is always, always worth a stop. Ryōzen Kannon, as a matter of fact, was a huge surprise for hubby and me.

After an enjoyable walk around Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka neighborhood, we were hoping to find our way to Yasaka-jinja but instead saw this massive statue that completely wowed us. Ryōzen Kannon is a war memorial commemorating the fallen from the Pacific War, the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier of World War II. There is an enormous concrete and steel statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Kannon) which was built and unveiled on June of 1955 by Hirosuke Ishikawa. The giant statue is 24 m high and is said to weigh 500 tons. Memorial tables of 2 million Japanese who died in World War II are also found here.

The enormous concrete and steel statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Kannon) at Ryōzen Kannon 霊山観音 in Kyoto, Japan. It is a war memorial commemorating the Unknown Soldier of World War II.

The enormous concrete and steel statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Kannon) at Ryōzen Kannon 霊山観音 in Kyoto, Japan. It is a war memorial commemorating the Unknown Soldier of World War II.

Hubby with the enormous concrete and steel statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Kannon) in the background at Ryōzen Kannon 霊山観音 in Kyoto, Japan. The statue is 24 m high and is said to weigh 500 tons.

Hubby with the enormous concrete and steel statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Kannon) in the background at Ryōzen Kannon 霊山観音 in Kyoto, Japan. The statue is 24 m high and is said to weigh 500 tons.

 

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Kyoto

 

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Osaka Castle 大坂城 – Osaka, Japan

Our short stint at Osaka, Japan left hubby and I just a little time to explore the beautiful city. Having no definite plans in mind but swing anything by, the locals pointed out that Osaka Castle is just nearby and it is worth a visit. The locals were right, the castle is a jewel even at night. However, we arrived a bit late and did not dare to go inside the Main Tower of the castle without having the certainty of being locked inside or not. We will probably add Osaka to our list of cities to visit again.

It is worth mentioning that Osaka Castle grounds contain thirteen structures which have been designated as Important Cultural Assets by the Japanese government.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 in  Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan

Osaka Castle 大坂城 in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan

Osaka Castle 大坂城 with the city lights in the background in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 with the city lights in the background in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 at night in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 at night in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 at night in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Osaka Castle 大坂城 at night in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

The pathway to Osaka Castle 大坂城  at night in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

The pathway to Osaka Castle 大坂城 at night in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Sakura Gate (桜門) with the Central Tower of Osaka Castle 大坂城 visible in the background in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

Sakura Gate (桜門) with the Central Tower of Osaka Castle 大坂城 visible in the background in Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan.

 

Virtual tour of Osaka Castle below:

 

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Osaka

 

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Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 – Kyoto, Japan

After a pleasant trek along the Hozu River and right at the further end of Tenryū-ji Temple is the Sagano Bamboo Forest that seems mystical in thousand ways. It is roughly a 500-meter pathway of bamboo plants that can be enjoyed in a 15-minute walk at the least. Hubby and I of course expected the stroll to be quiet, calm and serene which turned out to be otherwise because of the tourists who flock to this spot, each hoping to get a glimpse of the beautiful Arashiyama district in Kyoto, Japan. The trick is simply to pause and wait for everyone else to go ahead and watch as the bamboo leaves dance to the songs of the wind. Remember patience being a virtue. 

The Sagano Bamboo Forest walk is such a delight to everyone who visits. Afterall, it was not chosen as one of the filming locations of the Memoir of Geisha movie for no reason, right?

The Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Path of Bamboo : Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

The Path of Bamboo : Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

Hubby and I enjoying our stroll at The Path of Bamboo : Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

Hubby and I enjoying our stroll at The Path of Bamboo : Sagano Bamboo Forest 嵯峨野竹林 in Arashiyama District in Kyoto, Japan.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2013 in Kyoto

 

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Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 – Kyoto, Japan

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

 

Eikan-do , which literally means “Eikan Hall”, was named after a priest in the 11th century named Eikan. This temple is famous for having the most unique statue of Amida Buddha, which according to legend,  turned its head to talk to Eikan while he was walking through the temple.

TEMPLE BUILDINGS and WOODEN CORRIDORS

One striking feature of Eikan-do temple is the wooden corridors that connects its buildings. It is such a comfort to tourists in summer! One of the buildings is the Shakado Hall or the Hall of the Historical Buddha that has a beautiful small rock garden that I truly enjoyed. Hubby even gave me my own quiet moment while I sipped a small cup of tea and breathed in the beauty of the oasis.

The wooden corridors at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺  in Kyoto, Japan.

The wooden corridors at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺  in Kyoto, Japan and its wooden corridors that connect the temples buildings.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan and its wooden corridors that connect the temples buildings.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan and its wooden corridors that connect the temples buildings.

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan and its wooden corridors that connect the temples buildings.

The beautiful small rock garden at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The beautiful small rock garden at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The beautiful small rock garden at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The beautiful small rock garden at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Sui-kin-kutsu at Eikando in Kyoto, Japan where on pours water gently and has to concentrate one's attention on what the water drop makes. One can catch the low sound of drips just like the beautiful sound of Koto, a traditional Japanese harp.

The Sui-kin-kutsu at Eikando in Kyoto, Japan where on pours water gently and has to concentrate one’s attention on what the water drop makes. One can catch the low sound of drips just like the beautiful sound of Koto, a traditional Japanese harp.

One of the buildings at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the buildings at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

 

TAHOTO PAGODA

Hubby was filled with excitement to see the pagoda and we even thought that climbing the wooden corridor steps will lead us to the pagoda itself, However, we gave up considering we might be intruding some areas we are not allowed to go. While strolling along the temple grounds, we found a water fountain with a beautiful head and a mini waterfall which was truly a treat. Also, to our our surprise, the pagoda was quite hiding right behind the trees!

The Tahoto Pagoda nestled behind the trees at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Tahoto Pagoda nestled behind the trees at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The mini waterfall at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The mini waterfall at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

 

HOJO POND

My other favorite feature of Eikan-do Temple is the Hojo Pond. With its beauty and serenity, how can one not fall for this?

The Hojo Pond at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Hojo Pond at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Tahoto Pagoda nestled behind the trees as viewed across the Hojo Pond at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Tahoto Pagoda nestled behind the trees as viewed across the Hojo Pond at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Hojo Pond at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

The Hojo Pond at Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan.

Among the temples we have been to in Kyoto, Eikan-do is probably the one with most names. It is also referred to as the “View of Eternity Hall”, or “Hall of Yōkan”, or “Temple of Forest of Zen”. It is also named as “Shōju-raigō-san” which translates to the “Mountain of going across to the saints” and “Muryōsu-in” which means “Temple of Immeasurable Fortune”.

Eikan-do temple is the head temple of the Seizan branch of Japan’s Jōdo-shū (Pure Land) Buddhist sect.

Check on Google Street View below for an additional information and perspective on Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji 永観堂禅林寺 in Kyoto, Japan: 

 

 

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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Kyoto

 

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Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂 – Kyoto, Japan

In all our travels, my hubby has been the certified planner while I have been busy either being a paparazzi or being a spoiled brat. So, after our visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, we walked slightly north as I complained how hot summer days are in Kyoto. I was about to fret more but was completely stunned when we found ourselves exploring little corners of one of Kyoto’s most beautiful neighborhoods - the Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka.

One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kyoto, Japan : Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂.

One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kyoto, Japan : Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂.

 

It is a hilly vicinity polished with old wooden houses, traditional tea houses, Japanese restaurants and souvenir shops. It was most interesting to see every structure’s own unique character and wonder of  the neighborhood’s sloping areas and its narrow alleys. However, it is a very famous destination and is mostly packed with tourists and students so taking a time to pause and check on small corners is quite a challenge.

The slopes at Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kyoto, Japan.

The slopes at Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kyoto, Japan.

 

It is said that Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka means ‘Two-Year Hill’ and ‘Three-Year Hill’ referring to the ancient imperial years when they were first laid out. It is also believed that one will die within two years if that person falls down on Ninen-zaka and three years when one falls down on San’nen-zaka.

I do not remember falling that day. I really hope I did not.

One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kyoto, Japan polished with old wooden houses, traditional tea houses, Japanese restaurants and souvenir shops : Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂.

One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Kyoto, Japan polished with old wooden houses, traditional tea houses, Japanese restaurants and souvenir shops : Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂.

One of the beautiful wooden traditional tea houses at Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂 in Kyoto, Japan.

One of the beautiful wooden traditional tea houses at Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂 in Kyoto, Japan.

 

 

Check on Google Street View below for an additional information and perspective on Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka 二念坂・産寧坂 : 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Kyoto

 

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Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center やんばる野生生物保護センター – Okinawa, Japan

With the aim to raise understanding and awareness of wildlife conservation in Okinawa Island, particularly in Yanbaru forest, Yanbaru Wildlife Center was opened in April of 2009. It is located in the forested northern part of Okinawa, in a mountainous area rich in diverse flora and fauna.

Yanbaru Wildlife Center やんばる野生生物保護センター in the northern part of Okinawa, Japan.

Yanbaru Wildlife Center やんばる野生生物保護センター in the northern part of Okinawa, Japan.

 

We are not even aware of the existence of this center until hubby and I saw  it by chance after a wonderful hike at Hiji Falls. While there are no live animals kept in the center, the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive with a library boosting a large collection of books with nature photos. It is quite a good place to bring the kids to learn about nature while having fun. However, we wish to have enjoyed it better had the materials were written also in English.

There are no live animals kept in Yanbaru Wildlife Center but the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive, educational and fun.

There are no live animals kept in Yanbaru Wildlife Center but the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive, educational and fun.

There are no live animals kept in Yanbaru Wildlife Center but the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive, educational and fun.

There are no live animals kept in Yanbaru Wildlife Center but the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive, educational and fun.

Some of the visual presentations inside the Yanbaru Wildlife Center in Okinawa, Japan.

Some of the visual presentations inside the Yanbaru Wildlife Center in Okinawa, Japan.

The library inside the Yanbaru Wildlife Center in Okinawa, Japan.

The library inside the Yanbaru Wildlife Center in Okinawa, Japan.

There are no live animals kept in Yanbaru Wildlife Center but the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive, educational and fun like this exhibit of pseudo boar.

There are no live animals kept in Yanbaru Wildlife Center but the audio and visual presentations were aimed to be interactive, educational and fun like this exhibit of pseudo boar.

 

Check on Google Street View below for an additional information and perspective on Yanbaru Wildlife Conservation Center:

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Okinawa

 

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