Friday, November 25, 2011

Shirakumo Pond Unzen Nagasaki

Located up in the Hot Spring Resort town of Unzen on the Shimabara Peninsular, Nagasaki, Shirakumo Pond is the place of choice for the autumn foliage hunters and bird watches alike.  This area teems with flora and fauna and on weekends there can be a real fight for premium parking space especially in Spring and Autumn.

Arriving on Monday gave me plenty of time to take some real good photos to share with you so I hope you enjoy them!

Check out Shirakumo Pond here on a map!

Click here to enlarge the photos:

Picture perfect
Amazing colours
Autumn Foliage

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki

Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki is a prime Christian symbol from yesteryear that is still celebrated today.  When the government repealed its prohibition of Christianity the residents of Urakami who had regained their freedom in the 20th century started building  a church as their first and foremost project.  Due to funding difficulties construction did not get underway for another 20 years or so but eventually the project was finished and the Christians of Urakami were able to worship and pray in a context of their choice without restrictions.

The explosion of the atomic bomb on Aug 9, 1945  completely destroyed the Urakami Cathedral, the grandest church in east Asia at the time.  Only the broken church wall remained.  A portion of the southern wall was brought to Matsuyama Park (Nagasaki Peace Park) to make way for the construction of a new church building in 1958.  Today, Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki can be viewed by all visitors to the Nagasaki Peace Park.  Located next to the epicentre monument, it is a moving and important cultural asset that can be enjoyed by all that come to this highly spiritual and surreal place.

This wall is an important part of Christian History in Nagasaki and should be celebrated as such. Without a doubt a huge and very significant part of the Psyche of all Nagasaki Christians and used as a sign of hope and for future peace.  I recommend all visitors come and check out the Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki in conjunction with all the other amazing and heart moving landmarks within the Nagasaki Peace Park domain.

Check out the Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki on a map!

Click on the pictures below to enlarge:

Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki Depiction of Christ and his Apostles
Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki
The view from the epicenter depicted in a painting
Urakami Cathedral Wall Nagasaki
The remaining tower

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hachirao Christian Tombstones

The Shimabara Peninsular, Nagasaki is dotted with Christian tombstones.  It's hard to imagine that once there used to be many Christian communities and schools located all over the place in this largely Buddhist and Shinto dominated country.   One of these communities was the Hachirao Jesuit School in present day Kita Arima.   It was responsible for bringing Western Style painting and copperplate engraving to Japan.  In 1588 there were 75 Japanese students at the preparatory school in Kita Arima and by 1596 the number had grown to 112.

Eventually these schools closed or went underground as a result of Japan's ban on Christianity and as a result today less than 0.5% of the Japanese population regard themselves as Christian.

Come and check out the Hachirao Christian Tombstones on a map!

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

In Kita Arima
The graves

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nagasaki Porcelain Museum

The Nagasaki Porcelain Museum is located in Huis Ten Bosch and shows classic Imari Ware styled pieces that are so popular and desired today.  If by any chance you are going to visit Huis Ten Bosch whilst travelling around Nagasaki and you are interested in Porcelain then you can cross two interests of your to do list and save time and money at the same time.

Imari is the name for Japanese porcelain wares made in the town of Arita, located just outside Nagasaki Prefecture.  They were exported to Europe extensively from the port of Imari between the second half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century.  In Japanese, these products are also known as Arita-yaki.  Imari or Arita porcelain has been produced continuously until the present date and are still sought after products from around the world.

The main type of Imari used today is called Kinrande.  Kinrande Imari is colored porcelain with underglaze cobalt blue and overglaze red and gold.  The color combination was not seen in China at that time.  Traditional Ming dynasty color porcelain used dominantly red and green, probably due to scarcity of gold in China, whereas gold was abundant in Japan in those days.  The subject matter of Imari is diverse ranging from of foliage and flowers, people scenery and abstractions.

Nagasaki Porcelain Museum is conveniently located in Huis Ten Bosch and allows the public to see Imari Porcelain up close and personal.  You will be intrigued by the colors and even more intrigued with the attention to detail.  It's a rather small Museum but allow at least 30 to 40 minutes as each piece will reel you in and demand your total attention.

Check out the Nagasaki Porcelain Museum for yourself on a map!

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

Nagasaki Porcelain Museum Classic style plate
Nagasaki Porcelain Museum
Original Japanese designs
Nagasaki Porcelain Museum
Various figurines
Nagasaki Porcelain Museum
Imari wares
Nagasaki Porcelain Museum
Lots of varieties

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Saint Philip Church Nagasaki

Saint Philip Church Nagasaki is on Nishizaka Hill where the 26 Martyrs are situated.  The Church is named after a Mexican martyr who was one of the 26 saints that was killed by the Shogunate powers which banished Christianity in the 16th century.  His bust can be witnessed along with the other 25 martyrs at the Nishizaka Landmark which has such as power message and image of sacrifice and willpower to defy the orders to renounce Christianity within Japan.

The 2 towers soaring from the church are 16 meters high and the church has becomes one of the most visited landmarks in Nagasaki.  The museum and church was designed by Kenji Imai (1895-1987).  Here is some background information of the unknown designer and architect.

1895        born in Tokyo
1919        graduated from Waseda University
1919-65  teaches architecture at Waseda University
1926-27  travelled to Europe, influenced by Gaudi´s work
1948       converted to Catholicism
1987       died

The architecture of the church is unique and any fans of the works by Gaudi will immediately recognize the similarities.  So, if you are a follower of Gaudi's works or just like to visit interesting places then i am sure you will come away with a positive image of this place.  It will be impossible to just spend 10 to 15 minutes here, budget on at least 45 minutes to an hour as every aspect of this building will attract your eye and demand further detailed inspection.  This location is a great place to talk a walk and just breath in the history and atmosphere that remains today.

Click here to locate Saint Philip Church Nagasaki on a map!

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

Saint Philip Church Nagasaki Interesting patterns
Saint Philip Church Nagasaki
Entrance of the Church
Saint Philip Church Nagasaki
The unique Spires

Please take a look at this video to see Saint Philip Church Nagasaki in more detail:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fukusaiji Temple Nagasaki

Fukusaiji Temple Nagasaki was founded in 1628, originally as a zen temple.  During the dropping of the atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki on august 9th, 1945, the temple was completely destroyed.  It was rebuilt in its present particular shape, a giant turtle at the base with an 18 meter statue of a Kannon (a goddess of compassion)  standing on its back.  In my opinion a unique and interesting construction of a temple and is also known as Nagasaki Kannon Universal Temple and is instantly recognizable within the Nagasaki skyline.

Fukusaiji Temple Nagasaki also has another claim to fame.  It has a fascinating addition, a Foucault pendulum which is a device used to show the rotation of the earth.  Normally found in universities or planetariums, it is one of only five in Japan.  The pendulum is the third largest in the world and is only dwarfed by the ones in Paris and St Petersburg.  I am pretty sure that the only Foucault pendulum to be found in an active place of worship and can be witnessed here at Fukusaiji Temple Nagasaki.  I am sure that 99% of Nagasakians wouldn't know anything about this incredible fact and you could be more in the know then the locals with 1 visit to the amazing place.

If you have an interest in Buddhism, unique architecture an or just like to take photos of rare and special attractions then this is your place to visit!  You will be drawn in by this places uniqueness as its a place that you travel the world and still not find something this interesting and completely different to any other structure you have seen before.

Click here to see Fukusaiji Temple Nagasaki on a map!

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

Powerful from all angles

The monuments

Unique pond

Great hope for all

Goddess on a turtle

Please click on the videos below to see Fukusaiji Temple in all its glory:

Kunisaki Andesite Geopark Nagasaki

Kunisaki Andesite Geopark Nagasaki was created 1.5 million years ago when a Volcano near the Shimabara Peninsular discharged a sticky lava called Andesite.  During the age when the volcanic activity in the Hayasaki Peninsula (further south where Kuchinotsu town is now located) was less intense, there were some volcanic islands in the sea area around Shimabara Island and they belched magma consisting of different ingredients.  On the Kunisaki Peninsula in the south-west of the Shimabara Peninsula, visitors can see some layers of earth containing thick lava from the volcanic eruption then and layers of debris deposited by those volcanoes.

Even an amateur like me who has no real volcanic and geological experience, just seeing and observing these prehistoric materials of rock and volcanic materials in the flesh up close and personal is a real eye opener.  To realize that time has stood still and that history is staring at you is a fascinating experience that one should not miss out on and its all here in my backyard, figuratively speaking.

I spent a good 2 hours here walking and exploring but a real avid fan could easily spend a half a day here, really interesting and exhilarating stuff to be seen and observed!  The walk is an easy one, right along the coastline a walking path has been paved for ease of access and movement so that you can thoroughly enjoy the entire viewing process.   The result is uninhibited viewing of all things volcanic and lots of interesting materials to be seen and touched by all involved.

Come and check out the Kunisaki Andesite Geopark Nagasaki here on a map!

Kunisaki Andesite Geopark Layered rock formations
Kunisaki Andesite Geopark
At the shoreline
Kunisaki Andesite Geopark
Porous looking ones too
Kunisaki Andesite Geopark
Rock shapes are different
Geopark sites in Nagasaki
Unique Rock Formations

Check out the Kunisaki Andesite Geopark Nagasaki in the videos below:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kazagashira Park Nagasaki

Kazagashira Park Nagasaki is otherwise known as Ryoma Sakamoto's Park.  It stands on the top of a hill overlooking the magnificent Nagasaki Harbour.  With panoramic views of the city it is a excellent place to get a feel of the land and the encompassing valley below.  The park is a well known landmark and visitors from all over Japan as well as from overseas especially those that have studies Nagasaki History come to get a gander of the most famous Samurai of recent times.

Ryoma Sakamoto is heralded as being a visionary samurai for his time and during the mid 1800′s when the country was in turmoil with feudal Lord’s batting for domination one man had new ideas to transform Japan from a backwater country into an industrial force.  Ryoma Sakamoto envisioned a country unhindered by the feudal system and led a movement to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate, which he was successful in accomplishing.  This opened up Japan to overseas influences, world trade, industrial advances, technological expertise and generally made Japan the country that it is today!

Nearly every Nagasakian knows about this park and has visited at least once.  It would be a brave man or woman to admit to never having heard of Ryoma Sakamoto and or his park that is named after his accomplishments.  If you have a spare hour or 2 and wish to take a nice scenic walk through the heart of Nagasaki City and experience the beauty of the area then this place is for you.

Come and check out Kazagashira Park Nagasaki on a map!

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

Kazagashira Park Nagasaki Ryoma Sakamoto the famous Samurai
Kazagashira Park Nagasaki
Views of the harbor below
Kazagashira Park Nagasaki
The legend
Kazagashira Park Nagasaki
Spectacular Views

Here is a video of Kazagashira Park Nagasaki and the scenic views and splendid panorama:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki is a Catholic Church that was completed in 1914.  The main reason for its construction was because there were a large  number of Christians who lived in the Urakami region of Nagasaki and many of them secretly continued to keep their faith even after Hideyoshi Toyotomi (the ruler of Japan in the 16th century) prohibited Christianity.

After the long-standing ban on Christianity was lifted, the  Nagasaki Christians started constructing the Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki, which took them 20 years to complete.

Please click on the photos below to enlarge:

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki Many figures and statues to see

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki Powerful messages for all

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki Affected status from the Bomb Blast

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki Statue minus its head

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki A sight to see!

However, when the atomic bomb was detonated over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945,  the Nagasaki Urakami Cathedral was close to the center of the explosion and was completely destroyed except for a part of its wall.  After the war, the followers of the church took great pains to rebuild it and in 1959, a beautiful brick cathedral was finally completed.

Today, it stands as one of the symbols of Nagasaki that has been rebuilt and rediscovered itself from the past.  Bigger, stronger, newer but at the same time able to remember the good times and the bad.  A great place to visit for practising Christians and non religious people alike.  I am sure all people from all walks of life will be intrigued with the Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki.  Today it still shines like a beacon and is a major attraction for tourists from all over Japan and the world to see and feel what Nagasaki was like all those years ago and its influence it had on many people all over Japan.  The Urakami area of Nagasaki is a landmark of sorts and there is many many places of interest that one could easily spend 2 to 3 hours in the area walking around and seeing the sights.  Well worth a visit and a gander.

See where Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki is on a map!

This photo below is my favorite image and I think it is a great example of what the Cathedral has had to go through in order to survive for the many years that it has been around, hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Urakami Cathedral Nagasaki Damaged statues from the bomb

Please check out Urakamai Cathedral Nagasaki from the video below:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Shimabara Castle Nagasaki

Shimabara Castle Nagasaki is located between the Ariake Bay and Mount Unzen on the Shimabara Peninsular.  The outer moat is 15 meters deep and between 30–50 meters wide, extends 360 meters east-west and 1260 meters north-south.  The main building has five stories,  a height of 33 meters and is connected to two secondary buildings, each with three stories.

The Arita Clan (Christian ruler) ruled over the domain from Hinoe Castle and Hara Castle.  After the start of the national isolation policy the Tokugawa Regime banned Christianity from 1614 and replaced Arima with the Matsukura Clan.  Matsukura, who strictly enforced the prohibition against Christianity with mass executions, also severely raised taxes to pay for the construction of his new Shimabara Castle from 1618-1624.  This oppression of the peasants was a major factor leading to the Shimabara Rebellion.  Shimabara Castle Nagasaki came under siege during the Shimabara Rebellion but was not damaged.

Today only the moat and stone walls remain from the original structure.  In 1980, a memorial museum was opened in honor of Seibo Kitamura, a noted sculptor and designer of the famous Peace Statue at the Peace Park in Nagasaki City.   In 2006, the Shimabara Castle Nagasaki was listed one of the 100 finest Castles in Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation.

Sometimes I am in awe when i am driving down the hill from the mountain and the Shimabara Castle Nagasaki suddenly appears in the foreground.  A real Castle that operated over 400 years ago and still remains today albeit a restored type but really portrays the history and the real life setting of what life was like in Japan in the 17th century.

An absolute must visit for visitors to Nagasaki to inspect its history and beauty.

Check out the Shimabara Castle Nagasaki on a map!

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

Tour Group

One of the Outer Buildings

The view

Another view

The entrance

With Plum blossoms

Click on the videos below to see some performances by the staff at the Shimabara Castle:

Check out Shimabara Castle Nagasaki on this videos below:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings are the sorts of places that only comes around once in a while and when it does you should grab it with both hands and hold on tight!  It is one of those places that takes you hours to find but the end product is more than worth the effort put in to find it.

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings are interesting to say the least.  I heard through a friend that there was this isolated place up in the mountainside of Isahaya that had literally hundred of Buddhist carvings.  Quite a long drive and numerous wrong turns and the occasional asking of directions to the confused local on why a foreigner who isn't Buddhist would be searching for this place.

Finally I arrived at the entrance to the ravine and found the 'Gohyaku Rakan', known as the 500 Buddhist disciples which have been embedded in a rock face.  They are relief carvings in the rocks to commemorate the 487 victims of the 1699 flood of Isahaya.  The number of carvings are impossible to count in there entirety we just have to trust that there are 500 in total.  The shapes,  sizes and faces, features and style are all different and it is worthwhile to look carefully at each carving and identify each intricate and special individual feature.

An amazing site well worth a look or 2 or 3 or even 500!  One could spend a good couple of hours here or even an afternoon looking at all the delicate and amazing details that has been carved into the rock wall.  How many hours of pain staking effort it took to finish the job is beyond imagination, I just want to say thankyou to whoever completed this amazing works!

Have a look the Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings on a map!

Please click on the pictures below to enlarge:

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings Even fat ugly ones are cute

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings Many shapes and sizes

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings Too many to count!

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings Fine detail

Nagasaki Buddhist Stone Carvings 500 in all

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki

Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki has the distinction of being the first Zen temple constructed in Nagasaki.  It was established in 1677 by Tesshin from the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism.  It is surrounded by tree cover and resides in a quiet and dignified location within Nagasaki City.  It is accessible on foot and is located within the cities CBD so makes it an great location to do a walking tour with other attractions nearby.  Although the temple buildings cannot be entered, visitors can walk through Shofukuji's attractive temple grounds and observe the buildings from outside.

Before Zen's introduction to Japan, Buddhism had already had a long history in Japan dating back to the 5th century. The new teachings of Zen, promoted meditation and discipline as the means to enlightenment and became very popular with the samurai class, which was exerting political power through the shogunate government based in Kamakura.

Today the temple still stands, survived the Atomic explosion relatively undamaged and has a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere about it.  There are a lot of steps to negate but this is one of the thrills of walking around the location to look and investigate each and every building on display.  The building have a lot of intricate details that can only be observed up close and personal so i recommend visitors come and take their time walking around the area.

Well worth a visit and a leisurely stroll around the outer grounds.

Come and check out Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki on a map!

Click on the pictures below to enlarge:

Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki A secondary Building

Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki
A National Monument

Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki
Lots of stairs

Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki
The main gates

Shofukuji Temple
Interesting retainer wall

Please click on the videos below to see Shofukuji Temple Nagasaki in its real environment: