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Japan has been on my list for a long time. The lure of cherry blossoms in bloom inspired an effort to visit in springtime.

Japan has two aspects of life; one is orderly, efficient and polite; the other is private and mysterious. I endeavored to glimpse into private Japanese world, but found only reflections of public life. This is not to say that Japan has nothing of interest to offer, for it is a rich and colorful culture with a complex history. Japanese culture values social harmony, which can make us feel like outsiders since we don't understand their social cues and etiquette.


I stayed in the Ginza district of Tokyo which is known for shopping, dining and walking about. 

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is an oasis in the heart of Tokyo. Japanese Traditional Garden: Showcasing tranquil ponds, carefully placed rocks, and pruned bonsai trees. I was hoping to find blooming cherry trees but I was too early in the season.

Tokyo Imperial Gardens, also known as the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace are unusually situated. The gardens occupy the former site of Edo Castle's innermost defensive circles, dating back to the 17th century. While the castle buildings are gone, remnants like moats, walls, and gates remain. Again, I visited too early in the season to see the garden.

The Meiji Jingu Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, who are revered for their role in modernizing Japan. The main shrine buildings are constructed using traditional Japanese techniques and natural materials like cypress wood. It's a very popular destination for locals and tourists in springtime. 

Senso-ji Temple, also known as Asakusa Kannon, is an ancient Buddhist temple and one of the most significant in Tokyo. The temple, dates back to 645 AD. Legend says that two fishermen found a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, in the Sumida River, and the temple was built nearby to enshrine it. Many people visit Senso-ji to pray for blessings and good fortune. It's the Japanese version of a stupa. 


I took a couple of trains to Kamakura, which is a popular resort town known for its beautiful temples, shrines.

Hasedera Temple: This temple is dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kannon. It offers stunning views of the Sagami Bay and is especially beautiful in the spring when the wisteria blooms.

The Great Buddha of Kamakura: This iconic landmark is a colossal bronze statue of Buddha measuring nearly 40 feet tall. It sits in the open air at Kotoku-in Temple, and visitors can walk underneath it for a truly awe-inspiring experience.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine: This Shinto shrine was built in 1180 and is dedicated to the god of war, Hachiman. It's a popular spot for traditional weddings and is a great place to experience Japanese culture.


Hakone is a popular resort town offering a delightful mix of natural beauty, relaxation, and cultural experiences.

Lake Ashi, a beautiful volcanic lake, is a central feature of Hakone. Hakone Shrine, with its bright red torii gate stands partially submerged in the lake is a landmark.

Hammamatsu-ya is a shop in Hakone that specializes in Hakone Yosegi Zaiku, a type of intricate wood craft . Hammamatsu-ya is one of the few remaining traditional craftsmen in Japan who create these works of art using various natural woods. Their meticulous work involves combining thin slices of wood together to create geometric patterns and then inlaying them with scenic pictures.

Onee-san geisha plays a crucial role in a maiko's (apprentice geisha) success.  The onee-san's knowledge and experience are invaluable in shaping the maiko into a skilled and well-respected geisha. She acts as a mentor and teacher to a maiko.  She guides the maiko in everything related to becoming a geisha, from mastering artistic skills like dance and music to proper etiquette and social graces. The onee-san system serves as a way to pass down the traditions, skills, and etiquette of the geisha world from generation to generation.


Considered one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa boasts a stunning landscape design that embodies six essential qualities: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water features, and magnificent views.

The samurai district of Kanazawa, known as Nagamachi, offers a captivating glimpse into the life and culture of Japan's warrior class during the Edo period (1603-1867). Nomura Residence: This beautifully restored samurai house allows visitors to explore various rooms, including the entryway, reception area, and private quarters, to visualize how samurai families lived.

Gassho-zukuri is a unique architectural style for houses found in mountainous regions. The name translates to "hands clasped in prayer" due to the steep thatched roofs that resemble two hands coming together at the top. These villages offer a glimpse into a traditional Japanese rural lifestyle. Many of the houses are centuries old and continue to be inhabited, showing the legacy of Gassho-zukuri architecture.


Kinkaku-ji, also formally known as Rokuon-ji (Temple of the Deer Garden), is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. It's famous for its stunning gold leaf covering.

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, also sometimes called the Sagano Bamboo Forest, is a mesmerizing natural wonder located in Arashiyama, Kyoto. The towering stalks of bamboo create a dense canopy overhead, filtering sunlight and creating a cool, serene atmosphere. 

Tenryū-ji, formally known as Tenryū Shiseizen-ji, is a temple steeped in history and natural beauty, ranking as the head temple of its own branch of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Tenryū-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nijo Castle, also known as Nijō-jō in Japanese, is a powerful symbol of the Tokugawa shogunate, the military government that ruled Japan for over two centuries (1603-1868). 

Tōdai-ji, meaning "Eastern Great Temple", is a sprawling Buddhist temple complex in Nara, boasting impressive architecture and a giant bronze statue of Buddha. Todai-ji's most iconic landmark is the Great Buddha Hall, which houses a colossal bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha.  This statue, completed in 752 CE, is the world's largest bronze statue of a Buddha cast in a single mold. Standing at 49.2 feet tall, the statue is an awe-inspiring sight. 

Daihikaku Senkoji Temple (sometimes referred to as Senkoji Temple or Daihakaku) is a tranquil Buddhist temple nestled amidst the Arashiyama district in Kyoto. Daihikaku Senkoji sits atop a hillside on the western bank of the Oi River. Reaching the temple involves a scenic walk along a zigzagging stone path. 

Fushimi Inari-taisha is a Shinto shrine in Kyoto, widely known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates lining paths winding up Mount Inari. Foxes are considered Inari's messengers, and you'll find numerous fox statues throughout the shrine grounds. The most striking aspect of the shrine is the seemingly endless path of torii gates. These bright orange gates wind their way up Mount Inari, creating a visually captivating tunnel. 


The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a sprawling green space dedicated to remembering the victims of the world's first atomic bomb attack in 1945. It serves as a powerful symbol of peace and a poignant reminder of the devastating consequences of war. 

A-Bomb Dome: This skeletal structure, once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, stands as the most recognizable symbol of the bombing. Despite being near the center of the blast, the building's steel frame remained partially standing, a haunting testament to the destructive power of the bomb. The A-Bomb Dome serves as a powerful symbol of the resilience of the human spirit and a call for a world without nuclear weapons.

Kosanji Museum and Garden is a complex on Ikuchijima Island in the Seto Inland Sea, Hiroshima Prefecture. It consists of the Kosanji Temple, the Kosanji Museum, and the Hill of Hope (also known as the Marble Garden).

Miyajima Island, also known as Itsukushima, is a small island in Hiroshima Bay, western Japan. It's most famous for its giant red torii gate, which stands partially submerged in the water at high tide. The island's most iconic landmark is Itsukushima Shrine, a Shinto shrine built over water. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.