Byodo-in is a buddhist temple located in Kyoto. It was originally built in 998 during Heian period as a rural villa of a high ranking nobleman. After that, its ownership was transferred several times. In 1052, Fujiwara no Yorimichi made it into a buddhist temple -an origin of current Byodo-in, which now has registered in the World Heritage. Fujiwara no Yorimichi was one of the most powerful members of the Fujiwara clan, one of the most prestigious families in Japan which is continuing even now.

The most attractive structure of Byodo-in is Hoo-do, which means phoenix hall. The name comes from its design; there are two phoenix statues on the roof of it. Hoo-do, also is used as a motif for the design of Japanese 10 yen coin and 10 thousand yen bill. Phoenix hall, as its name suggests, has been surviving from Heian Period, not destroyed by natural disasters, while other structures in the site were repeatedly lost to fires and other calamities over the centuries.



Kiyomizu-dera - 'dera' means temple in Japanese - is a Japanese temple which is located in eastern Kyoto and was established in 778, though present buildings are reconstructed ones completed in 1633. The main attraction of Kiyomizu-dera is its large veranda that protrudes out over the skirt of the hill and offers impressive views of Kyoto city. The name Kiyomizu means pure(kiyo) water( mizu) or clear(kiyo) water(mizu) and the origin of the naming is a waterfall within the site.

By the way, there is a famous Japanese idiom that relates with Kiyomizu-dera - do it as if you jump off the stage of Kiyomizu. This idiom is, need less to say, refers its large veranda that is seen in the photo above. For your information, its Japanese pronunciation is as follows - Kiyomizu no butai kara tobiorita tsumori de yare -. The last word 'yare' means 'do' or 'do it'. So if you want someone to do something, you substitute the verb for 'yare', translating into Japanese.

The veranda is as high as about 60 feet from bottom of the hill, and the height of the veranda itself from its basement is about 40 feet. The major part of Kyoto city can be outlooked from it. However, contrary to the meaning of above- mentioned Japanese idiom, diving from those heights cannot necessarily be fatal. In fact, although quite a few people committed suicides by diving from the veranda, about 85% of those survived, according to historical documents.

Above illustration is a panoramic view of Kiyomizu-dera. As you can see, there are many structures in the site. As for means of transportation to the site, it is located in the middle point between JR(Japan Railway) Kyoto station and Hankyu Kawaramachi station. Regardless of which station you chose, you can get on a bus from those railroad station. However, Japanese bus routes are so complicated that even Japanese people can get on a wrong bus. So I recommend walking to there.


Old Tokyo Station

Old Tokyo Station is still used as a part of present Tokyo Station, with preserved exterior and renovated interior. It was constructed in front of the Imperial Palace and completed in 1914. The start of its construction was delayed due to Sino-Japan War and Russo- Japan War, and shifted into high gear from 1908 after the end of those wars. The station, inevitably, has been a witness of many historic events and showing various expressions over the years.

In above photos, (1) is of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. There are so many bills that were stuck for searching individuals who were missing. (2) is of destroyed station after the US airstrikes in the WWII. (3) is of the crowd going into chaos at december 20, 2014, which was led to by the launching of 100th anniversary prepaid card for establishing Tokyo Station. (3) is clearly expressing that Japan is in the state of peace enduring long. If people from other countries had seen it, they would have thought it was something like bank's bankruptcy. 

Here is the prepaid card causing that uproar. the people gathering around the station included those who wanted the card for the purpose of resale as well as rail funs - both of them had a motive to become enthusiastic. While Japanese people recently have been applauded for their composed and calm manner in tough situations such as earthquakes, the fact that just mere prepaid cards have caused uproar can only be said as funny. That circumstance was covered in the news throughout Japan. 

Leaving that aside, Tokyo Station has two different faces on its east side and west side. The east side is called 'Yaesu' and the west side is called 'Marunouchi'. And they also can be said as the new and old faces of the station. While old Tokyo Station constructed with red bricks stands on the west side, namely, Marunouchi side, new Tokyo Station faces to the east side, Yaesu side. And the Japanese Imperial Palace faces to the west side. On the other hand, Yaesu side faces to downtown. 

The photo below is the external appearance of Yaesu side and it is on the other side of old Tokyo Station, that is, Marunouchi side. As you can see, there are some buses in front of it, for motor coach station is located there. Since motor coaches charge reasonable fare compared with that of Sinkansen, super express train, there are a lot of people around the motor coach station. For your information, motor coach fare is usually under half of Sinkansen fare.

As a means of transferring, motor coach is a cheap but interesting option, especially for transferring between Tokyo and Osaka. Since its inside is designed in accordance with Japanese's size, foreign tourists, especially white and black people, may feel it tight a little bit. So it is very important to choose three-column seat type. There also are four-column seat type buses, and if you choose one of them, you will experience stressful tour in those buses. 
As for operating hours, the buses operating between Osaka and Tokyo typically take about 8 hours, having two or three break times at rest areas on the highway which takes about 15minutes. The most significant issue about the operating time, however, is that there are overnight bus and daytime bus. For foreign travelers, I would like to recommend the daytime bus because it offers you various sceneries including Mount Fuji. Of course you need to reserve a window seat to enjoy those sceneries and frequently chatting with your folks is against manners. 

Leaving that aside, Old Tokyo Station was planed by Tatsuno Kingo, the Japanese architect who was called the father of modern architecture in Japan at that time. However, there had been another architect from germany, Franz Baltzer. He is not so much an architect but a railway engineer who had been employed by government for Japan's modernization. He, in fact, originally had been committing to planning railway network centering on Tokyo.

Baltzer later had come to be committed to planning Tokyo Station. Since being interested in Japanese architecture, he attempted to employ Japanese-style design into the appearance of Tokyo Station. Specifically, the designs of shrines, temples, and castles were mixed and introduced to its design. He also wanted to say through the design that Japanese should be proud of their own cultures instead of submissively copying European or Western cultures.  

Franz Baltzer's Plan of Tokyo Station
However, a Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo, who actually was to plan the Tokyo Station, criticized his plan, saying it looks like as if an European woman dresses her hair in Japanese style and puts on Japanese sandals just out of curiosity: his remark means that Baltzer's plan doesn't reflect genuine Japanese design precisely and therefore, it's a superficial imitation of it. After that, Tatsuno had charge of the planning Tokyo station, and he made a plan that employed the Renaissance style.


Battleship Island (Gunkanjima)

Gunkanjima means Battleship Island in Japanese and its formal name is Hashima. The island is an abandoned island lying on about 15 kilometers off-shore of Nagasaki. The name, needless to say, comes from its appearance and it is formed by a lot of cookie-cutter apartments. These apartments were used as dormitory houses for coal workers. Since the discovery of coal there in 1810, Battleship Island had been exploited and producing large quantities of coals until 1974.

In its golden age of 1960, its population reached 5,267 and population density was whooping 83,600 per square kilometer, the highest in the world at that point. There were school, hospital, temple, barber shop, pub, and movie theater, functioning itself as an independent city. Since coal workers' salary were relatively high, they were able to possess television and refrigerator when those appliances were still expensive for average citizens. Today, however, there is no residents in the island. Battleship Island has been ruins since its closing in 1974.

In 2015, Battleship Island was nominated for world heritage and its registration was approved unanimously in July 5, 2015. That registration was for 23 institutions that were Japan's heritages of industrial revolution in Meiji Period, and the Battleship Island was one of them. The discussion for its approval had been facing troubles as South Korea argued that there were Korean laborers who had been forced to work in some institutions including Battleship Island.

The both sides, Japan and South Korea eventually reached the agreement to recognize the 23 institutions as a candidate for world heritage, provided that Japanese delegates make a statement that acknowledges there were Korean workers who were forced to work in those institutions. But unfortunately, a lingering bad feeling was left between both sides as a trivial difference of interpretation on that statement cause both sides to have respectively different views.  

While Korean delegates insisted that there were 'forced labor', Japanese delegates preferred and used the passage saying 'there were workers forced to work'. This difference was discussed between both sides before the ceremony and Korean made a concession, not using the word of forced labor. However, Japanese foreign minister stated after the ceremony that the word 'forced to work' does not mean 'forced labor' - it provoked resentment among Korean people, firing up social media networks.
Korean foreign affairs officer stated against their counterpart's statement that the important thing is how does international community take the fact based on its practice and standard. Having said that, Korean media, by and large, reported the series of affairs as their diplomatic success, saying Japan admitted the fact of forced labor in the scene of international relations for the first time. Furthermore, there seems to be a Korean movie director who are going to make a movie in which Korean forced laborers are rescued by special forces. 

Japanese government said that although there were certainly laborers brought from Korea in Japan during WWII, they were requisitioned in conformity to the National Requisition Ordinance as is the case of Japanese citizens - a case that should not be called forced labor from the point of the view of international law. Although that logic can make a sense as Japan had been annexing Korea during WWII, Korean national sentiment would not be able to accept it. 

However, there were positive aspects on the relationship between both sides that were brought about by the series of event. In fact, Korean foreign minister stated that we were hoping the progress of the Korea-Japan relationship, taking advantage of this peaceful settlement in which we only exchanged conversations. Also, Japan announced that it would construct an information center in relevant institutions to exhibit displays that expressed the existence of Korean laborers who were forced to work, enduring tough labor environment.

From architectural view point, Battleship Island is the first place where reinforced concrete construction method (SRC) was employed for residence. In those days of the 1960s, since Japan was in so-called high economic growth period, a lot of functionally efficient apartments were needed for employees and their families. Besides, increasing population due to post war baby boom required it, too. Therefore, numerous apartments were constructed during that period both privately and publicly.