After some internal debate and getting feedback from friends, I’ve decided to blog my honeymoon in Japan by 5 “Art of” themes rather than in a travel guide-like format. This is because I think it’s a better way of tying together the imagery I had created. If you’d like a view into my suggested itinerary and travel tips and must-sees, never fear, I’ve created a Google Doc in public form where you can view and download for your own edification.
I decided to start my 5-part series about Japan with the Art of War. One thing I didn’t realize going into the trip was how violent a history Japan had, with its feudal system that essentially had the island kingdom divided into various city-states for many centuries. Indeed, they were lorded over by samurai – who fought as soon as they could with firepower (muskets) rather than swords. For this reason, there are several spectacular castles you can still visit today in Japan that show the military technology of the time. I also highly recommend watching Akira Kurosawa’s movie, Ran, if you want to see Japanese battles in action. It’s a wonderful movie, epic filming, and a great interpretation of King Lear. One of the castles we visited on this trip – Himeji Castle – was used in the movie.
Matsumoto Castle is a gorgeous castle that you can visit when you are based in Tokyo, it’s about a 2.5 hr train ride into Nagano Prefecture
The main castle keep (the tall building pictured) also has a secondary donjon attached, and a poetic moon viewing platform
We walked through the city of Matsumoto and came upon these guys
My favorite part about the castle is its black wainscoting – which earned it the nickname of “Crow Castle”
This castle’s keep is empty and retains its original structure – you can go inside and climb the entire structure and see how it was used in war. We were really lucky to get an English guide that day who taught us a lot of unique facts about the purposes of different windows, slots, floors, etc.
Nagoya Castle is one of the castles you can visit while you’re making your way from Tokyo to Kyoto
There is currently a large project underway to restore the lower palace. Right now you can see some of the replicas of the beautiful tiger silk screens
These golden creatures are called tigerfish, though I prefer to call them dragonfish. They are often placed at the edges of a roof on the top of a castle. Nagoya’s happened to be made of gold leaf
The last castle we saw was Himeji Castle, one of the most famous Japanese castles
The main castle keep is still under construction so we could only wander the outer defense walls – which were used both to house concubines and could also be easily moved for defense purposes
Not to end on a complete somber note, but we took a whole day to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Park as well as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Given the devastation that the a-bomb had inflicted on Japan, I was very surprised to find how the museum presented all the facts in as unbiased a manner as it could. It was raw and painful, but not hateful. Ultimately, the museum and park stand as testament to the horrific effects of using nuclear weapons, and I agree with their stance that these weapons should never have to be used on anyone
Since the Art of Peace is my next blog post, this is meant to be a transition to that blog post
Don’t miss these related blog posts and links
0. Shang’s Japan Travel Guide (Google Doc)
1. Japan Honeymoon (1 of 5) | The Art of War
2. Japan Honeymoon (2 of 5) | The Art of Peace
3. Japan Honeymoon (3 of 5) | The Art of Specialization
4. Japan Honeymoon (4 of 5) | The Art of Rain
5. Japan Honeymoon (5 of 5) | The Art of Spirits
Shang Chen Photography has rebranded to Saavedra Photography
she takes photographs of celebrations of love and life
Based in NYC | Open for select photography commissions on Sundays only
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