Pilgrim’s Progress, Senso-ji by way of Nakamise-Dori

Senso-ji, dedicated to the bodhisattva of compassion, Kannon, is metropolitan Tokyo’s oldest temple. Most of the temple was destroyed during Allied bombing raids in 1945 and rebuilt after the war. Senso-ji’s history dates back nearly 1400 years to 628 AD when, according to legend, two brothers were fishing in the nearby Sumida river and dragged […]

Miyajima, Beyond the Gate

The vast majority of visitors to Miyajima remain on the island for only a few short hours, a day trip from Hiroshima. Not venturing past the torii gate, paying their respects at Itsukushima, they return to the ferry terminal, stopping along the way to shop on lively Omotesando street with its restaurants, food stalls, and […]

Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima

I overheard a tourist snipe, as she passed a group of fellow tourists waiting in a queue on the platform directly facing the famous orange torii, “how many pictures can you take of a wooden gate?” Every picture reveals a different torii as the tide rises or falls, or the light changes from morning to […]

Incoming Message from the Big Giant Head, Daibutsu at Todaii-ji, Nara

Todaiji, “Great Eastern Temple”, is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples. Construction started in 728 AD and was completed in 752 AD. It served as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan until it grew so powerful that the capital had to be relocated from Nara to Nagaoka in […]

Kinkaku-ji, Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Capped by snow in winter, set against the lush green of summer, or enveloped in autumn foliage – nothing is as symbolic of Kyoto as Kinkaku-ji. Perhaps even more so, its golden reflection shimmering across the rippled surface of the pond before it. This temple has been destroyed by fire numerous times, in the conflagrations […]

Ryōan-ji, Peaceful Dragon Temple, Kyoto

Ryōan-ji, a Zen temple located northwest of Kyoto, eponymous with its more famous rock garden, is truly one of the most serene places on earth. The temple garden is considered to be the finest example of a kare-sansui, or zen rock garden, in Japan. It’s my favorite garden in the world. The garden is best […]

A City That Fits Into Seventeen Syllables, Kyoto

The allies had originally planned to drop the first atomic bomb on Kyoto. Kyoto was spared by the personal intervention of Henry L. Stimson, United States Secretary of War. Stimson wished to save this cultural center in which he spent his honeymoon. There are over 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto. It […]