The Seven Wonders of Japan
In conjunction with Neil Duckett and his excellent Japan blog, I bring you, in no particular order, the Seven Wonders of Japan.
Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto
Kiyomizu-dera is a Tendi Buddhist temple in Kyoto, and is one of the oldest and best known temples in an historic city filled with temples. The current building was built in 1633 by the third Tokugawa shogun and temples on the location date back to 798. Situated on Mount Otowa, Kiyomizu offers a stunning view of the surrounding area.
Kiyomizu gets its name from a nearby 13m waterfall. People would often jump off the temple into the water below (a practice which is now banned). “Jumping from Kiyomizu Temple” has become a saying in Japan for doing something daring.
Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo) is one of the best preserved castles in Japan. Construction originally started in 1331, Himeji was untouched by the devastation in WWII, unlike Osaka and Hiroshima Castles. Himeji is considered one of the three great castles of Japan, along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle.
Castle holds a commanding view of all the surrounding flat land area, which made it ideal for a military fortification. In addition to its large keep and thick walls, the paths inside the compounds are a maze designed to confuse potential attackers.
Himeji can be visited via day trip from Kyoto or Hiroshima via the Shinkansen, and the castle is within easy walking distance from the train station.
On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan became the first city ever to be destroyed with an atomic bomb. As Hiroshima rebuilt after the war, a decision was made to keep the ruins of the Genbaku Dome (A-Bomb Dome) standing as a reminder of the devastation, and the centerpiece of the Hiroshima Peace Park. The dome and the area of the park was ground zero for the blast which killed over 100,000 people.
The park draws visitors from all over the world who come, not only to remember those killed in the war, but to hope for future peace.
In addition to the A-Bomb Dome, there are memorials to the children killed in the explosions, a peace library and museum, an eternal peace flame, as well as several acres of park area. Visitors should take the time to ring the Peace Bell.
The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is one of the most beautiful buildings in Japan. Built on the grounds of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397, the pavilion was created to hold relics of the Buddha. The top two floors of the building is coated in gold leaf, which is where it gets its distinctive name.
The pavilion was burned down in 1950 by a deranged monk, and rebuilt in 1955. The pavilion and the surround pond and garden are one of the most photographed scenes in Japan.
No trip to Japan would be complete without taking a trip on the Japanese bullet train, the Shinkansen.
The Shinkansen is the heart of the extensive Japanese rail system. While most of the trains in Japan are normal trains, the Shinkansen are kept on a separate rails designed for rapid transit. The Shinkansen can achieve a top speed of 300kph (180mph). There are no road or rail crossing on Shinkansen tracks. The speed of the train would make an accident devastating.
High speed Shinkansen trains can be taken from Kagoshima in the far south to Hachinohe in the north, covering most of the country.
Could any list of the Seven Wonders of Japan be complete without Mount Fuji? Mount Fuji is not only the highest point in Japan, but is a symbol of the country which has been used in countless pieces of artwork. Fuji is an active stratovolcano, but has not erupted since 1707.
Approximately 200,000 people climb Mount Fuji each year, and visiting Mount Fuji is a popular destination for tourists. On a clear day, the summit of Mount Fuji can be seen from Tokyo. The most popular months for climbing Fuji are July and August.
Visiting the base of Mount Fuji can be easily done on a day trip from Tokyo.
Ramen in Fukuoka
Japanese cuisine ranks among the best in the world. While sushi often gets the attention, one of the staple foods of Japan is ramen.
Originally a Chinese dish, ramen first became popular in Japan during the Meiji period in the 19th Century. Japanese ramen is a far cry from the instant noodles which many westerners think of when they hear ramen.
Ramen was believe to have been brought to Japan by Chinese merchants in Fukuoka. Fukuoka ramen is known for its rich, pork based Tonkotsu ramen, topped with a pork cutlet.
Other articles in Gary’s Wonders of the World series:
Seven Wonders of the Philippines | Seven Wonders of Australia | Seven Wonders of New Zealand | Seven Wonders of Japan | Seven Wonders of Egypt
Daily Photo – Kagoshima, Japan
This is one of my favorite photos. A business man taking a break looking out on Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan.
Daily Travel Photo – Kobe, Japan
Inside the observation area under the deck of the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world, they had glass panels in the floor of the walkway. Even though it was perfectly safe, the sense of vertigo you get while standing on the glass was far worse than what I got when bungee jumping. Note the fake log in the middle of the glass. They had to install that so people who were afraid to walk on the glass could cross over.
Daily Travel Photo – Nara, Japan
In the Toadiji Temple, it is said you will have a long life if you can crawl through the hole in this pillar. Considering that children are the only people who can fit through the pillar, it is sort of a self fulfilling prophesy.
The Big Mac(Donald’s) Update
|McDonald’s in Okinawa|
Since I last did a McDonald’s update, I’ve gained a lot of readers. For those who are new, I try to eat at a McDonald’s restaurant in every country I visit. McDonald’s in every country are just a little bit different as they adjust the menu to fit local tastes. Eating at McDonald’s is an attempt to try and see how each country is different through the lens of something which is very familiar. I do not usually go out of my way to eat fast food, but I do eat at least this one meal at each place.
My last update was in Taiwan, so I have Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong/Macau to fill everyone in on . Brunei didn’t have a McDonald’s that I could see (but they did have Pizza Hut and Jollibee’s) and I’ll wait till I pass through KL to talk about Malaysia.
You think Japan you think seafood. It should come as no surprise that Japan’s contribution to the global McDonald’s menu should come from the sea. They have given us the Fliet-o-Ebi, or the shrimp sandwich. What was interesting was that the Japanese McDonald’s all had cheaper seafood sandwiches than beef sandwiches. This is opposite (outside of Lent) as it is almost anywhere else. The filet-o-fish was the cheapest thing on the menu and the Quarter Pounder was the most expensive.
|McD’s in Geyongju, South Korea|
I had a helluva time finding Diet Coke in Japan and South Korea. I guess they aren’t that fat so don’t feel the need to drink diet coke that often. I’d usually get a Grape Fanta when I ate in Japan.
In the Asian McDonald’s I’ve visited (except for Hong Kong) they had a very clever system for getting rid of your garbage. Each garbage bin had a drain attached for dumping your ice and extra beverages. You were then expected to stack your cups. Also, hard plastic like forks, drink tops and straws were usually put in a separate bin. It was very efficient. Very Japanese. The drain on the garbage is one of those simple ideas that really should be adapted everywhere. It reduces the weight and potential mess of the garbage by removing the liquids from the bag. It also reduces the volume by stacking the cups. It would be very simple to implement and I think everyone would use it immediately.
South Korea has one of the more boring menus I’ve seen so far. The only really unique thing I saw was the pumpkin pie, which sounds like something that is probably on the menu in North America in the fall, but I don’t recall ever actually seeing it.
|Lots of McDonald’s in Hong Kong|
The one thing which sets South Korean McDonald’s apart from Japan was something you could see all over the country: space. Most of the Japanese McDonald’s I saw were very crowded. Many had spaces for eating while standing up against the wall. There were very few booths or large tables. This is sort of a reflection of everything in Japan. Everything is tiny and crowded.
In South Korea, even though the country has a higher population density than Japan, you don’t see the same amount of crowding. I noticed this the moment I arrived in Busan. The apartments were bigger, almost American sized. Likewise, the McDonald’s were more roomy and less seafood oriented. Even though South Korea is heavily into pork, I didn’t see a lot of pork on the menu.
They also had corn soup on the menu, which is something I also saw in other Asian countries. I don’t get why corn is so popular. It certainly isn’t a traditional Asian food.
|There is a McDonald’s smack in the middle of the historic area of Macau.|
I noticed that Hong Kong and Taipei had way more fast food restaurants than I saw anywhere in Japan and South Korea. You’d see them around in Seoul and Tokyo, but not in the same degree as in Taipei or Hong Kong. I have no clue if it is a Chinese thing.
That being said, the two places I’ve eaten the most fast food were in Taipei and Hong Kong. I think that is more a function of me staying there far longer than I had originally planned, having a screwed up sleep schedule, and McDonald’s being open 24/7. If you recall from my report on Taipei, they had great fried chicken. The Hong Kong chicken wings were also really good. Probably not very good for me, but they taste good. The only unique thing I saw was the Prosperity burger, which was available in beef and pork. I think it might have been a seasonal thing like the Shamrock Shake, but for Chinese New Year. I also saw the Prosperity Burger in Malaysian Borneo, which has a sizable Chinese population.
I plan on doing a special McDonald’s update from Bali. From what I’ve heard, the menu is very different there.