Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

Our second day in Takayama was NOT planned.  I’m a very J on the last component of the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I like to plan everything beforehand. In order to “fight” against my personality (My confort zone) sometimes I do things that are totally against how I would normally do. For example, not planning a trip is something that brings me out of my confort zone 🙂

We parked our car near the Takayama station and started strolling on the east side of the city. We soon found ourselves walking in streets filled with traditional houses. Beautiful alleys but also filled with tourists, ironically, not planning our day, brought us to the Sanmachi Suji, the most touristic place in Takayama. We crossed several bridges, contemplated the carps swimming in the river and walked northbound until we found ourselves almost alone.

It was then, when we serendipitously found the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by green nature and lightened by the sunset ocre tones. The legend says that this shrine was build to protect Takayama against the monster Ryomen Sukuna, a beast with two heads and eight extremities.

When we entered the grounds of the shrine nobody else was there, it was magical to be there alone. Planning the day would have make it a totally different experience.

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That’s me taking the previous picture!

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Hida Folk Village

Hida Fold Village is a beautiful open air museum in Takayama (Gifu Prefecture). Since we were travelling by car, we chose it as our first place to visit, access from the 41 road (crossing Takayama from south to north) is almost direct (Turn left on the crossing with the 158).

Although it is located near the city, the Hida Fold Village is totally surrounded by nature. Walking around its pond and randomly entering its more than 30 traditional houses is a pleasure and feels like travelling back in time to the Edo Period (1603 – 1867).

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Most of the houses are build following the gassho-zukuri style. This architecture is characterised by high roofs with very step angles that help with the snow season. The shape of the roofs looks like the position of the hands when performing the buddhist prayer “gassho”, that’s why the name of the style is gassho(Hands joining together in prayer)-zukuri(making or building).

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I loved walking inside the houses and imagining the lifestyles of the people who lived in them in the old times. I learned that their lifestyle revolved not only around agriculture but they where involved in handcrafting, logging and even silk manufacturing (You can see silk worm raising devices). Almost all houses have an “irori” cooking area in the middle that helps to heat the entire place in winter when meters of snow cover all Gifu prefecture (Hida region).

The visit to this open air museum was an appetiser to before our visit to  Shirakawa-go days later.
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Access:

Hida Folk Village entrance ticket price:

  • 700 yen

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Still discovering new places in Japan

During the last two weeks I’ve been traveling and discovering new places I’ve never been before here in Japan. I’ve been living in Tokyo more than ten years but I feel that I still don’t know anything about these islands and that’s probably what keeps me here. I like the feeling of wonder when I walk randomly and discover a hidden shrine in a forest or find an utterly beautiful garden in an area where there are apparently only ugly buildings (Yes, Japan is also ugly).

I always travel by train, it is so convenient! But this time I chose to challenge my comfort zone and drive a car. I thought I could reach almost anyplace in Japan by train, but I was wrong. Japan by car is really beautiful and I will repeat in the future.

During the next days I will write here about the places I discovered during this trip to Gifu and Fukui. These are two of my favorite pictures from the trip 🙂

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Hideo Kojima’s Magnum Opus Becomes a Pachinko Game in Japa

Legendary video game developer Hideo Kojima has lost his rights to Metal Gear when he severed ties with publisher Konami. And while the world isn’t expecting new Metal Gear content to show up anytime soon, this new Metal Gear-inspired pachinko game has appeared. In this article, let’s take a closer look at the new Metal Gear pachinko and how it pays homage to one of the best video game titles of all time.

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First off, this isn’t the first time that Konami made a pachinko version of one of their successful titles. According to Japan Today, previous pachinko remakes by Konami include the horror game Silent Hill and action-adventure platformer Castlevania.

It’s not surprising considering that creating a spin-off game from a popular title isn’t only inherent to video games. Motion picture films have always spawned numerous game titles. Another famous soldier, Rambo, has lots of games tied to his name including Rambo: The Video Game, which is still getting updates even after several years from its release date as shown by Game Spot. Several TV series have also inspired game developers such as the reality show X-Factor which has games like slots and Slingo that feature the title. Expanding outside a single premise is a path frequently taken in the entertainment industry.

That said, Polygon stated that Konami employed the Fox Engine which was used for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain on the pachinko remake of MGS 3: Snake Eater. Suffice to say, the graphics have been upgraded to more crisp and smooth visuals.

The trailer showed that development, which played the memorable meeting scene of Naked Snake and The Boss. Other characters from the game will also appear, although it’s not definitely clear yet at this point how the actual gameplay will turn out to be.

When it comes to audio aspects, the music was taken from the iconic Metal Gear main theme. The original voice actors of the characters have also lent their voices once again to the game.

Games Radar added that there will also be mini-games inspired by significant chapters from the game. The fight with Ocelot will be included as well as Virtuous Missions featuring chibi versions of the characters.

Here’s a video of the different parts and mechanics of the pachinko games:

Although Hideo Kojima is no longer with Konami, the company said that it still has plans for the franchise aside from the pachinko remake. Fans may be split between amused and annoyed, but one thing’s for sure: given that pachinko machines are big in Japan to the point that they have pachinko parlors, the Metal Gear series will still get the love and attention it deserves, at least in its home country.

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Local rice shops

Rice is probably the most important food source for the Japanese. Rice is usually bought at supermarkets in bags of 5kg or 10kg. But even though the supermarkets competition is strong, there are still plenty of rice shops that have survived only selling rice. These specialised shops sometimes have more varieties of rice that can’t be found in supermarkets, being able to choose their preferred type of rice is very important for many Japanese people. One of the most common varieties here in Japan is koshihikari.

I love the look and feel of rice shops, this is a local rice shop I photographed here in Tokyo:

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And this is a huge rice vending machine. It is able to serve bags of 10Kg!

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10Kg rice packages in a supermerket

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Best places to enjoy the Japanese autumn colours – kouyou (紅葉 こうよう)

Kouyou (紅葉 こうよう) could be translated as “the colours of the leafs in autumn”. During the months of October and November, the green forests turn yellow, orange an vermillion until winter arrives and snow covers Japanese mountains with a white. The ginkgoes bring the yellow, the momiji and kaede (Maple trees) add the rest of the tones to the Japanese autumn.

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It is celebrated all around Japan, and many places become touristic attractions just because they are specially beautiful during the kouyou. This is a list of the best locations to enjoy kouyou by Nihon Kankou:

If you want to enjoy it without going far away from Tokyo I recommend Mount Takao and also the Rikugi-en gardens which are very easy to access from Komagome station near central Tokyo.

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Recovering fallen objects from train tracks

I’ve always loved the silhouettes in this sign that can be seen in some train stations here in Tokyo. It is a train station employee using a long stick to help a girl recover her hat from the train track.

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This is a video in which I capture the full process of fallen object recovery.

How about just using a pokéball? 😉

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Japanese sweet

Japanese sweets keep fascinating me. It is more about the wrapping, the colours and the shape than the flavour. Each unit feels special. I got this sweet from a colleague who travelled to Kaga.

Buying a present (Omiyage お土産) for the colleagues in your team at work when travelling is a very ingrained tradition in Japan. It doesn’t need to be something special, it is ok to just bring one cookie or sweet for each member. I have the feeling that the main purpose of this omiyage tradition is to help make small-talk in the office. The act of giving a cookie to each of the people working with you is an opportunity to talk about things unrelated to work.

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Japan popular brands map

I love this map that shows a map of Japan with the logos of many of its top brands at the location where the headquarters are. Notice how most of them cluster around Tokyo and Osaka, and car manufacturers are around Aichi. Nothing in Shikoku? I love discovering that Hudson (Takahashi Meijin) is in Hokkaido 🙂

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Second hand cameras in Japan

Years ago it was worthwhile to buy new cameras in Japan (It was generally cheaper). I don’t think that’s true anymore, for most new cameras the price difference (Japan – other countries) is almost nonexistent.

But when people travelling to Japan ask me, I tell them that if they are really into photography what is still worthwhile is to enjoy visiting secondhand camera shops. Many of them have disappeared but there are still plenty of secondhand and oldschool film camera shops that you can find in the most random places. This one in the pictures is a very local shop that Carlos and me found while walking around Asakusa. From outside it doesn’t feel like a camera shop, it blends with the soba restaurants and coffee places in the same street.

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This the exact location of the shop in the pictures and these are other popular secondhand camera shops in Tokyo are Ozawa Camera, Fujiya Camera and Map Camera.

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