The Kushida Shrine is an important shrine of the district of Hakata. The shrine is known for hosting the Yamakasa Gion Matsuri, the biggest festival in Fukuoka. During the festival, giant floats are carried around the neighborhood. One of them is displayed permanently at the shrine. The shrine features a large Shimenawa rope above the altar and some peculiar long-nosed Tengu masks. Lanterns, and the whole shrine grounds, are lit in the evening creating a truly special atmosphere.
The Hakozaki Shrine is an important shrine of the city of Fukuoka dedicated to the goddess Hachiman. Founded in 923, the shrine has a long history. It was restored after being completely destroyed during the Mongolian invasion of 1274. The shrine can be recognized by the long street which starts in front of the shrine and extends to the sea. Three Torii gates are located on that street: one in front of the shrine itself, one in front of the sea, and the last one is located roughly halfway between the two others.
Taking the Shinkansen is always an exciting adventure for me. I have to admit I’m somewhat of a train enthusiast. Not that I know all trains by their technical names, I simply enjoy the ride and in the case of the Shinkansen, the speed. Waiting for the Shinkansen on the platform, I like to look around, observing station employees, people waiting for their trains, and wondering where they are heading.
A Japanese mansion, pronounced manshon, is not a large and expensive house the name would suggest. Mansion is used in Japanese to describe a typical apartment complex. Interestingly, individual apartments at mansions are usually accessed from outside through a balcony running along the building. Although everyone has access to this balcony, it lacks privacy and seems rarely used to enjoy nice weather or eat outside. The latter is not popular in Japan and terraces at restaurants are practically nonexistent. The mansion is well adapted to the Japanese climate, which rarely justifies the necessity of access corridors to protect inhabitants from the cold.
Himeji Castle is one of the most famous castles of Japan along Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto castle recently damaged by the Kyushu earthquake. It is by far the largest castle and attracts a remarkable amount of tourists every year. The castle has undergone recent and extensive restorative work that necessitated five years to complete.
The Himeji Castle is situated on a small hill. It comprises six floors and is surrounded by an intricate defense system. The many defensive walls are pierced by loopholes of different shapes that could be used to fire rifle shots at the enemy. Those defensive walls were designed in such a way to force the enemy to take many detours before reaching the main keep, giving the defenders more time and chances to locate and shoot the enemy. Nowadays, tourists wander across this complex and confusing walkway to reach Himeji Castle. As most Japanese castles are, it is surrounded by a moat: a water channel that encircles the fortress further deterring attacks.
The Kokoen garden is a Japanese style garden established at the former residence of the lord of Himeji. Kokoen actually features many small gardens of different themes, each enclosed by the original fortified walls that divided the residence in many sections. The central landmark of the garden is the lord’s residence which features a magnificent pond surrounded by a classic Japanese garden.
The Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft is located in a historical rice warehouse of the Bikan district. Many potteries, clothes and pieces of furniture are exposed at the museum, specialized in utilitarian objects. As such most of the pieces of the exhibit are of unknown origin as they were crafted by ordinary artisans for use in everyday life.