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Seasons of Towada

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Attractions | 0 comments

The area around the Towada region is blessed by the four charming seasons of Japan with all their distinct tones, colors and essences.

Hachimantai

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Fall colours from Hachimantai! It was too cloudy so couldn’t capture it well. Photo: gayatriisingh

The 1613m volcanic plateau Hachimantai and Lake Towada in Aomori make up Towada-Hachimantai National Park. The area boasts meandering walking routes alongside various lagoons and hot springs. Hachimantai is beautiful throughout all the four seasons. Particularly, from late September to mid-October, the autumn is breathtaking with leaves transforming the mountains with a red and gold palette.

Towada Lake

Towada Lake is part of Towada-Hachimantai National Park and the largest volcanic crater on Honshu Island, the main island of Japan. Straddling the borders of Akita and Aomori prefectures, the area is famous for its autumn colors and particularly the surroundings of Oirase Spring, one of the best known sites of autumn admiration of Japan.

Kakunodate

kakunodate

Photo by shenguyu

Kakunodate is a town of castles and ancient samurai fortresses in the present Akita Prefecture. While the old Kakunodate Castle was destroyed, the town has not been substantially changed since its foundation in 1620, including two separate quarters for samurais and merchants. Once a quarter of 80 households, the samurai quarter still boasts quintessential houses of this class in Japan.
Kakunodate is also known to be the most recognizable cherry blossom quarter in Tohoku region. Around late April and early May, legions of watchers flock here to admire the spectacular mingling between cherry blossoms and historical houses of Kakunodate.

Aspite Line

Aspite Line is a 27-kilometer sightseeing route that runs through Towada-Hachimantai National Park and stretches up to Iwate and Akita. With only one house left on the top, it’s a fine sightseeing location, particularly in the autumn when you can take a panoramic view of colorful oak and pine trees. Aspite Line is closed in the winter due to heavy snow; however in April, the line is reopened in a striking manner with high walls of snow flanking the way, some of which can reach up to 6 meters in several areas, so sharp and precipitous as if they were cut with knives right at the very start of their formation. Experiencing both winter and spring on the Aspite Line by driving through the snow corridor which leads to cherry blossom trees in full bloom in Kakunodate is unforgettable

Shirakami Mountains

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Photo: rainyafternoonx

Shirakami Sanchi is a wide mountain range stretching between Aomori and Akita in the north of Tohoku region in Japan. The core of Shirakami Sanchi was formed out of the last primordial oak forests in Japan, which was altogether registered as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Japan in 1993

The main attraction of Shirakami Sanchi lies in walking routes of different distances that lead through forests to waterfalls, mountain peaks and lakes. The most popular walking route leads to Anmon Falls in the northeast of Shirakami Sanchi.

Anmon Falls are three waterfalls situated about 90 minutes’ walking distance to the valley from the forest entrance, and are inaccessible from late November to late April.

Nishiki Katakuri

Nishiki Katakuri Colony is unique because its total area is one of the largest flower colonies in Japan, four times larger than the Tokyo Dome (200,000sqm). Although eight years to bear blossoms and prove quite sensitive to different climate conditions, Katakuri trees are extensive in the Colony thanks to their favorable conditions, fertile soil and the abundant sunlight that fades away as reflected from the upper part of the forest. It’s the reason why it is a large habitat of violets. Also in the autumn, the Colony is famous for Saimyo-ji Guri,the largest chestnut species in Japan whose seeds are larger than a child’s hand.

Visit the kingdom of chocolate, fries and beer?

Yokote Castle

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Photo by hkm350

Yokote Castle was constructed by the Onodera clan in the 16th century. Onodera daimyos ruled until the outburst of Sekigahara Battle in 1600. After Sekigahara Battle, Onodera daimyos were sent to Shimane Prefecture and replaced by Satake daimyos of Mito. Yokote Castle was an important landmark of the southern territories of Satake. In the Edo era, the rule of the castle was handed over from Satake to Date, Suda and Tomura until Meiji Era. In 1868, the castle was reduced to ashes in a battle of Boshin War.

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Bruges (Belgium) – A Belgian Venice

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Travel Blog | 0 comments

I arrived in Bruges – the “Belgian Venice” – on an early autumn day. The Northern sun cast its gleaming velvet light on Gothic buildings which seemed to float on canals, and ancient Bruges greeted me with jangling horse bells and clomping horseshoes on old alleys paved with medieval tiles.

Bruges was a robust harbor city between the 12th and 15th centuries, as trading vessels from throughout Europe came offering pepper, cinnamon, chili and agricultural staples to trade for Flemish wools and cottons. Canals connecting Zeebrugge with the center of Bruges were the crucial transport network of the town during its golden days and now contribute to this well-preserved floating city’s status as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Bruges - Belgian Venice

Bruges – Belgian Venice

The medieval city of Bruges entices with well-preserved architecture and delicious chocolate, fries and beer

An outdoor museum

Bruges boasts some of the most unique museums in Belgium: The Fries Museum (Frietmuseum), Chocolate Museum, Beer Museum De Halve Maan, Diamond Museum and Groeninge Museum, which displays art by painters who lived and worked in Bruges from the 14th to the 20th century. In fact, the town itself is an outdoor museum that exhibits architectural masterpieces and countless bridges crossing centuries-old canals. Highlights include Beguinage Castle, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Church of Our Lady, the Saint Salvator Cathedral, Mariastraat Cathedral, the Tomb of Duke Charles the Bold, the City Hall of Bruges on the Burg Square, St. John Hospital and Begijnhof Monastery.

My journey to discover Bruges began on a canoe packed with dozens of visitors from all over the world. The canoe pilot and a tour guide led us along Groenerei Canal, the main route for exploring Bruges. The canoe snaked through floating buildings along river banks, crossed beneath curved stone bridges and sometimes turned down narrow canals, revealing modest rooms looming behind old green shades. On each of these 30-minute trips, the canoe driver took us to the outstanding constructions of Bruges and told us of the golden age and fall of the town as well as the miraculous revival of this outdoor museum since the turn of the 20th century. Like a short film rolling through the memories of the narrator, a Bruges of the past and present revealed itself to me.

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I left the canoe at a wharf sprinkled with flowers at the other end of town. There stands the Church of Our Lady, home to the masterpiece “Madonna of Bruges” sculpture by Michelangelo, which was the only of his works to leave Italy during his lifetime. It seemed that all the ancient lanes in downtown Bruges led to this church. From here, visitors can branch out to admire other architectural masterpieces of Bruges, where every single fairylike gate is marked with UNESCO’s Blue Shield symbol, representing a commitment to protecting humanity’s cultural sites.
Joining the throng of visitors strolling along narrow and labyrinthine alleys, I crossed bridges that led to other jewels of Bruges in hopes of exploring all the wonders of the harbor town while the sunset fell.

Take a look at the ancient imperial capital of Hue

The kingdom of chocolate, fries and beer

However, there is much more to Bruges than its ancient buildings – no visitor should miss out on the city’s chocolate, fries and beer. Belgium is the kingdom of chocolate and Bruges is undoubtedly its heart, as numerous chocolate shops permeate the town with their sweet fragrance. In these stores, some of the finest chocolate of Belgium and the world comes in all styles, shapes and sizes. I also stopped by the Chocolate Story, a museum where all things related to chocolate were on display: cocoa beans, chocolate making tools, statues of Mayans – the first people to use cocoa – sculptures of chocolate, legends of the goddess of chocolate and the history of chocolate production. Stepping out of the museum, my newfound knowledge of chocolate only added to the irresistible appeal of this sweet obsession.

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Bruges is a place where one will frequently encounter visitors strolling through the Old Quarter, carrying paper cones of salted fries served with mayonnaise and other delicious sauces, perhaps on their way to the unique Frietmuseum. However, the finest delicacy in Bruges for me was beer. The town is the home to various renowned beer brands of Belgium such as Bruges Tripel, Bruges Blond, Bruges Babbelaar, Brugs, Bruges Straffe Hendrik, and many more. The beer I loved the best was a dense concoction brewed by monks that resembles golden honey and is stored in drum-shaped oak barrels.

After a long day spent exploring, I stopped by a beer pub by St. John Cathedral for Cloister Beer and lamb ribs while Bruges was draped in the dark blanket of falling sunset. As the sunset gleam faded away, light from church belfries and the window panes of old castles cast a warm glow. Another side of Bruges emerged, as visitors began flocking to Market Square in the downtown to continue their explorations of the town’s nightlife.

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A cultural revival in Hue

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Festival and Culture | 0 comments

Two recent tourist attractions offer visitors a taste of life in the ancient imperial capital of Hue

Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion (the name means “Reign of Peace Worldwide”) was constructed in 1923 under the rule of Emperor Khai Dinh (1916-) 925), meant to commemorate his 40th birthday. The pavilion was built on the former foundation of an 1804 temple named Tu Thong which had served as an outpost for Imperial City guards. After its construction, Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion was dedicated to the emperor and his royals for relaxation and to princes and princesses for daily studies during the last years of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945)

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The two-story Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion was designed in a colonial style. From the second floor, visitors can take a panoramic view of the majestic landscape of ponds, green trees and undulating roofs of the Imperial City and observe the peaceful everyday life inside the Forbidden City. It was rumored that Emperor Thieu Tri enjoyed the sight of his entire royal palaces from this pavilion, which inspired him to write his “Ten sights of the palaces” poems. Each of these poems was illustrated and carved on woodblock prints, then sent to China to be etched on mirrors.

For a long time Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion had fallen into ruin, but in 2010, the site was restored to its original glory. Today, the Pavilion has become the site of imperial-style cultural events with a strong contemporary touch. Audiences can enjoy improvised versions of Hue chamber music, displays of Hue Tuong masks or Tru singing of old Thang Long.

Le Quy Duong, one of Vietnam’s leading directors, has worked in partnership with the Center for Preservation of Hue Former Citadel to restore and develop events for Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion and Long Quan royal boat. He said in the near future his company would host an amateur music night in Hue’s former citadel, while Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion will be utilized by artists and scholars to exchange ideas and new research about Hue. In the future, several UNESCO-recognized genres, such as Noh theater of Japan, traditional dances of India and the culture of Australian aboriginals will also be featured at the site.

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Photo by fadetotoday

Along with Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion, the Long Quan royal boat at the Greeting Temple is a unique location for concerts and a way to enjoy and admire the Perfume River at sunset. This luxurious craft was modeled after Te Thong royal boats of the Nguyen Dynasty. It measures 30 meters long and can accommodate 100 guests. Traveling along the tranquil Perfume River, visitors will pass Linh Mu Pagoda, Ngoc Tran Mount and Hon Chen Temple while hearing stories of ancient royal life before joining a “Royal Banquet” that is hosted right on board.
Tu Phuong Vo Su Pavilion and Long Quan royal boat are helping to diversify the tourist attractions on offer in Hue. These two sites will help preserve and promote cultural values of Hue while promising to leave a strong impression on both domestic and foreign visitors to the old imperial capital.

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