See Japan's castles the easy way
Article posted on Thursday, April, 21st, 2011 at 1:13 pm
“What was that?” Then another question, “Was that a castle?”
Usually we don’t doubt what we see with our own eyes. But, when you’re riding the bullet train at speed, there will be the odd occasion where you need to rewind and re-process what could have been so easily missed had you blinked.
It was my second time past before I realised it was what I thought it was, and that I should find out more. It turned out what I was looking at was Akashi Castle. Heard of Ōsaka? Well, who hasn’t? Heard of Himeji? Quite possibly. Well, Akashi (the castle & the city) sits right in the middle.
If you are a tourist, you could be forgiven for not taking the time to check this place out. Should you be in the area to take in the sights of Himeji Castle, Akashi would just be a let down. To everyone else though, let me say just say that the Spring afternoon I spent here in 2009 was absolutely heaven. Azaleas in bloom, clear skies, warm weather, families at leisure. It was perfection.
A final point, both of these towers are the real-deal, which is to say they are Edo-period (1603 – 1868) originals. Do yourself a favour.
Article posted on Tuesday, January, 4th, 2011 at 7:05 pm
Well, it’s official. I’ve gone bananas for Google maps’ Street-view. At this point in time, coverage is far from perfect but no doubt, as time rolls on it’ll get better & better.
Here’s a list of the available panoramas. The list is pretty much arranged from awesome to not-so-good. The first three (which are also in bold) are pretty special as you go move within the castle grounds. The pictures below the list show what you can expect.
- Nijō Castle
- Kumamoto Castle
- Aizuwakamatsu Castle
- Kishiwada Castle
- Shibata Castle
- Shoryuji Castle
- Hitoyoshi Castle
The following screenshots are not from the dedicated castle panorama pages (above) but instead are from the main map.html page. You’ll notice a small, yellow dude in the top-left corner. All you need to do is click-and-drag him to the desired place on the map. And there you have it, you're in the scene. Exiting is a little tricky, there’s an X in the top-right you need to click.
Anyway, here are some examples. Who knows what else you might be able to find?
Article posted on Thursday, October, 14th, 2010 at 10:07 pm
This isn’t the type of thing I usually post. It's probably a good thing that I am, variety being the spice of life and all. I was just going through my photos of Usuki castle from a year or two back and they really jumped out at me. I'm not suggesting they're worthy to be on the front cover of National Geographic but just thought they may be of some interest to you, the valued reader.
Autumn is on the way and is a great time to travel in Japan. I'm thinking of travelling to Ehime Prefecture. How about you?
Article posted on Friday, June, 18th, 2010 at 10:21 pm
Choose your own adventure
I have got to say that I am itching to travel. It has been a while since I’ve been on a castle-exploring trip, and without much time or money I’m unsure when the next chance to travel will be. When it does eventually happen though, I will be ready for it.
The first few times I travelled around Japan compared with the last time was very different. I suppose it’s natural that the more you do something, the more efficient you get at it, but also having a family and a mortgage has made me a bit (more like a lot) more careful when going about things. Tell me if you think my itinerary from Spring 2009 is a little hectic.
|Day 1||Arrived in Kyoto via night bus from Fukuoka|
|Took train to Otsu to see Zeze castle.|
|Took train to see Yodo castle in Kyoto city.|
|Walked to Shoryuji castle. (do not attempt this yourself!)|
|Took train to see Osaka castle.|
|Took train to see Akashi castle.|
|Stayed the night in an Akashi hotel|
|Day 2||Took train to see Ako castle.|
|Took train to Nara to see Yamato Koriyama castle.|
|Took bus to see Yamato Koizumi castle.|
|Took train to Kyoto.|
|Walked to see Nijo castle.|
|Took night bus back to Fukuoka.|
I don’t travel for relaxation, visiting castles is my relaxation.
Some things to consider when planning your own travels.
I’ve already mentioned the night bus. I don’t particularly like it but travelling when you sleep (or attempt too) maximises the time you have to look at interesting things during the day. Night ferry is another option.
Of course being Japan, trains are a very convenient way to get around. Check out this website: www.jorudan.co.jp/ Just enter the train station names (you may have to double check the spelling) and it will offer you the fast or economical options that are available to you.
Where to stay
Do not waste your time at a youth hostel. I stayed at a couple in Ehime; too many rules & too expensive. I prefer a cheap business hotel room. Another option is a Minshuku (usually slightly-grubby, old-style guest houses) but the bathing area is shared.
What to see
Some people may prefer to wing it, but for the reasons I mentioned earlier I like to have a pretty fair idea of what I’m going to see. First thing I do is look at the Japanese Castle Explorer map. If you have managed to overlook the Google-bar, I recommend you give it a go. You can even type in Nihongo to get results. There is also the panoramio & wikipedia overlays to help you discover sights to see.