Culture

Meanderings at the Osaka Castle

The great thing about sight-seeing on a rainy day is that you can wander with ease. It also means you get wet, but we didn’t mind too much. Here are a few pictures from our visit to the Osaka Castle. As one the most recognizable castles in Japan, it’s height and elaborate ornaments are pretty impressive. And like everywhere in Japan, the surrounding area of walls, gardens, and water made for a peaceful walk. My favourite part was the stones on the surrounding wall. They sat beautifully together like bricks, but with wear and tear in the edges and cracks.

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Winter Illumination at Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Gardens

Winter “Illumination” is more popular in Japan than I have experienced anywhere else. Case and point, when I showed some students a video of Christmas decorations on houses, several of them shouted “ILLUMINATION”, but didn’t know “light”. I happened upon Kanazawa’s illumination at the Kenrokuen gardens by chance. I’ve been to the gardens once before in the summer, and it was nice to see the same sights with blankets of snow.

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Autumn in December: Nagoya Castle

Three months after my first trip, I returned to Nagoya. This time, with a special travel buddy: my younger sister Ebany. The day of Ebany’s arrival in Japan was the first snowy day in Toyama, and man does Toyama know how to snow. We were both entranced by the blankets of white and crisp, chilly wind, made even more festive by the abundance of lights and Christmas decorations that fill the city. Our train ride in the morning was a perfect way to see the snow topped mountains and trees, seated comfortably  and with plenty of leg room in our heated JR train.

_DSC0007Upon arrival we spent a few hours wandering the overwhelming luxe JR towers, a 15 story behemoth of fancy restaurants and fancier stores.

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Sunday morning we payed a visit to Nagoya’s famous castle, originally built in the early 17th century during the Edo period and has since been demolished and reconstructed in the mid 20th century. Like most attractions in Japan, it’s surrounding area is an essential element to the experience. Winding paths, stretches of stone walls and lush foliage are a serene introduction to the extensive castle. Unlike Toyama, Nagoya hasn’t realized that it’s December, and so we were delighted to find fall leaves and warm sun.

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Every floor of the reconstructed castle features a different exhibition of history and the building’s construction. The top floor  offers a panoramic view of the extensive city and visual evidence of its ranking as the 4th most populous city in Japan. Of course there are plenty of cheesy photo opportunities, my favourite being the large golden Dolphins which pay homage to the castle’s architectural history.

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