"Travelling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." -Ibn Battuta
With more than 3,000 historic sites nationwide, Japan is an uber developed country that combines the strength of tradition and modernity of societies. From the oldest temples that can be found on earth to some of the most ultra-modern skyscrapers in the Western and Eastern Hemisphere, Japan knows how to make things work.
Fun fact, the land of the rising sun is also known for natural wonders such as distinct animals, landscapes, and plants.
Japan has always been a country that fascinates and memorises visitors for its influential traditional culture, rich culture, Shinto beliefs, and cosmopolitan living. It is also a popular destination for Western tourists who travel through Asia and decide to take Japanese classes.
Nevertheless, it is essential to state that aside from delicious Japanese cuisine and gorgeous Mount Fuji, there is a multitude of Japanese monuments that can be visited; let's take a look at some unique ones!
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is a must-see when travelling to Japan and many recognise images of it from textbooks and pictures circulated worldwide. Its location in Central Tokyo was formerly the site of the Edo Castle, the official residence of the Tokugawa shoguns until the Meiji Revolution in 1868.
That same year, 1868, Tokyo became the capital known as Edo, and the castle became the new residence of the Emperor. However, it is essential to state that in 1873 the Edo Castle was destroyed and was finished rebuilding in 1888.
The Imperial Palace hasn't had it easy since it was also destroyed during the Second World War and was rebuilt during the 1960s. Nevertheless, it is essential to state that the Imperial Palace is now the official residence of the current Emperor of Japan, Naruhito.
The imperial palace is not always open to the public for tours. For example, only twice a year, December 23 and the Emperor's birthday do visitors have the right to explore this famous palace.
However, it is essential to state that visitors can easily walk around the vast and immaculate gardens or take a boat to check things out. Also, during the cherry blossom season in March and April, the gardens are spectacular!
One of the most popular photo spots for tourists and Japanese alike to take pictures of the Imperial Palace is the Nijubashi bridge.
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The Tokyo Skytree
The world's tallest tower is the Tokyo Skytree that was inaugurated in 2012. The Skytree is a must-see when travelling to Japan, especially if you're spending some time in Tokyo since it has an aquarium and planetarium that will suit the needs of all types of tourists.
Also, there are over 300 stores to shop at and a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. The Skytree is very busy and lively throughout all seasons of the year.
The Tokyo Skytree is one of the best signs of Tokyo's modernity that has a fantastic reputation on the world scene.
It is essential to state that for lovers of tall structures, the Tokyo Tower (333 metres) which looks a bit like the Eiffel Tower is a magnificent structure that was built in 1958 and served as a radio and television antenna. From the top of Tokyo Tower, the view of Japan's largest metropolis is incredible. However, it is essential to state that visitors must be ready to walk up more than 600 steps; have fun!
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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices
While visiting the Japanese capital of Tokyo, tourists can spend some time walking around the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The building is relatively new having been inaugurated in 1991; it takes the form of two twin towers of 48 floors in each one.
Until 2007, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Buildings dominated the Tokyo skyline at over 243 metres in height.
But why would anyone want to visit a government builiding while on vacation?
Here's why: the views from the observation deck located at over 200 metres are breathtaking, and visitors can quietly contemplate the beauty of Tokyo from above and even see a glimpse of Mount Fuji.
The observation deck is worthy of visiting at any time of the day; during the day the pictures capture the full extent of the city, and at night the lights of the city are dazzling and make a romantic date night unforgettable!
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Sensoji Temple in Tokyo
The Sensoji temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo and was erected in honour of the goddess Kannon. It is one of the must-sees when passing through Tokyo or spending an extended time in Japan.
Heaps of tourists visit the temple every day to admire its beauty and peacefully walk through the alleys.
Take a tour of the Sensoji temple to understand its exciting history and influence on Japanese culture.
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The Kyoto Golden Temple (Kinkaku-Ji)
Visiting the former capital of Japan, Kyoto, is a must when travelling through Japan the first time. Kyoto is traditional and drop-dead gorgeous; a change of scenery from other Japanese regions.
The original residence at the Golden Pavillion dated back from the end of the 14th century and was the home of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. At the time of Yoshimitsu's death, it is was turned into a Zen temple and was rebuilt in the 1950s after a monk set it on fire. The house is now adorned with gold leaf, hence the name Golden Pavillion.
It is essential to state that the Golden Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Golden Temple's counterpart, Ginkakuji, or Silver Temple is also located in Kyoto and worthy of visiting. Although less famous than the Golden Temple, the Silver Temple has divine gardens that are worthy of admiration.
Fun fact: unlike the Golden Temple, the Silver Temple takes its name from the colour of sand found in the Zen garden on the edge of the building.
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Kyoto Imperial Palace
The original imperial palace in Kyoto is one of the oldest buildings in Japan since its construction dates from the 8th century or the year 794 to be exact. However, unfortunately, many fires have destroyed many original parts of the palace.
The Imperial Palace that can currently be visited dates back from 1855; nevertheless, it is a faithful reconstruction of the original. When Kyoto was the capital of Japan, the palace was the residence of the Japanese royal family.
Although slightly neglected and less accessible to the imperial family than the palace in Tokyo, the Kyoto Imperial Palace is still used for ceremonies and rituals such as the New Year's greetings from the central pavilion.
The park and gardens connected to the Imperial Palace are also very noteworthy and especially striking during springtime with the famous pink blossoms growing from the cherry trees.
To visit the palace, it is of the utmost importance to request the authorisation from the agency of the imperial house, which is located in the garden area of the palace grounds. Also, interested visitors can request permission via a form on the internet.
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Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto
Initially built in 711, in honour of the Inari rice goddess, it is the largest Shinto shrine in Japan. To observe the magnificent beauty of this temple, visitors must be willing to walk along a path past the thousands of famous vermilion porticoes, also known as torii.
This famous site has been observed by millions in person, in the 2005 epic film "Memoirs of a Geisha" and while playing a series of Nintendo video games known as "Star Fox."
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Peace Memorial Park Hiroshima
While many may wish to associate the history of Japan with samurais, geishas, and emperors, it has been much darker, depressing, and less appealing. For example, the city of Hiroshima shows visitors Japan's heartbreaking involvement in the Second World War at the peace memorial.
It is essential to state that thousands of Japanese and international tourists visit the Peace Memorial Park to pay tribute to the thousands of people who have died. The atmosphere at the Peace Memorial Park and Museum is weighty and emotionally charged, which allows everyone to reflect on the various atrocities that are committed during wartime.
Osaka, the economic capital of the Kansai region, is a city worthy of visiting for its sheer amount of architectural treasures and cosmopolitan feel. Nevertheless, visitors from all over the world flock to Osaka to see its most famous monument: the Osaka Castle.
Once inside the interior of the castle, there is a highly recommended museum that tells the story of Osaka and the history of the castle since its construction. Also, from the top floor of the castle, the views of Osaka are quite spectacular.
The original building was constructed in the 16th century or in the year 1583 to be more specific. However, it is essential to state that the Osaka Castle has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since its original date of completion. The most recent version of the Osaka Castle was finished in the year 1997.
Although the castle has been reconstructed many times, the ramparts and moats are identical to the original construction.
Apart from the castle, there are lovely gardens and a beautiful park where the Japanese natives love to come and relax.
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Located west of Kyoto and Osaka, Himeji is not the most recognisable city in Japan; however, the Himeji Castle has become known as one of the most visited monuments in the land of the rising sun.
By its size and construction techniques, the Himeji Castle is the incarnation of a typical Japanese since it features the following characteristics:
- Whitewashed walls,
- Very high stone foundations,
- The frequent use of plaster.
Also widely known as the "White Heron Castle", for the visible clodding and coating of the outer walls. It is part of one of the three magnificent castles of Kumamoto and Matsumoto. We strongly recommend visiting this castle when travelling through Japan, especially in Spring, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Definitions From Today's Article
Japanese monuments are diverse and visually striking, brilliantly mixing ancient tradition and modernity.
Were there some words you didn't understand from today's article such as shogun or shinto?
What is Shogun?
The term shogun means general in Japanese. The term shogun comes from an abbreviation of the word seiitaishōgun that can be translated as a great general peacemaker. The shogun was the military leader of the country while the emperor was the guardian of the traditions and culture. The title shogun was abandoned in the 19th century.
What is Shinto?
Shinto or Shintoism is the primary religion practised in Japan. It is a polytheistic and animist religion linked to Japanese mythology.