Yoyogi Park is a huge park in the northern part of Shibuya, home of the Meiji Shrine, as well as the location of the first powered aircraft flight in Japan (back when the place was called Yoyogi Army Parade Ground).
After WWII, during the Allied occupation of Japan, the grounds were used by U.S. officers for their military barracks. It was only after the occupation ended and the area was used for the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 that the grounds were turned into today’s park.
Barrels of sake donated every year by the brewers for the soul of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken
In 1920, after the death of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the Meiji Shrine has been established as people “wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever” (more info).
People from all over Japan and overseas donated over 10,000 trees and voluntarily planted the forest which people can enjoy today.
Torii marking the entrance to the park and the Meiji Shrine
Tokyo, now one of the largest and most populated cities in the world, came from a small fishing village which held a strategical position to the water (land, sea and river routes) in the Kantō province.
From 1603 to 1868 is the period in Japan often referred to as the Edo Period, which was marked by continuous growth now that the country had finally unified. Edo was the old name for Tokyo, which came from Edo Shigenaga, a military governor of a large province who built his own castle there, called Edojuku (Edo castle).
Much of the culture and literature flourished in this period, as Japan adopted strict isolationist policies, stabilized its population and ended a period of internal fighting between the various warlords.
View from the Metropolitan Government Offices building
The period started with Tokugawa Ieyasu becoming the shogun (military dictator) of Japan and selecting Edo as his headquarter. The strength of his shogunate over the whole country meant that the emperor, located in Kyoto, was effectively powerless.
This period came to an end in 1868 when the pro-emperor army defeated the supporters of the shogunate in the Boshin War. The government had been growing more powerful for a while and events sparked by the forced treaty upon the opening of Japan helped to bring about this change.
Emperor Meiji moved to Edo and started a new period of reforms and innovation for Japan, called the Meiji Period or Meiji Restoration, which led to the current state of Japan after more than 200 years of isolation.
When someone who grew up on Japanese media visits Tokyo, be it for the first time or the twelfth time, there is something which drives them back to Akihabara.
This area of Tokyo has peculiar and interesting history and is now the “mecca” for anyone interested in videogames, animes and mangas.
The whole place is exactly as one would expect: colourful, chaotic and very crowded.
The numerous shops are housed in very thin but very tall buildings with up to 8-9 floors, each dedicated to a category or specific genre.
Jeonju, just a few hours ride away from Seoul, is an active little town famous for its food culture. Called the food capital of Korea and added to the Creative Cities for Gastronomy by UNESCO, it is truly an interesting place for food explorers.
Cute cafe surrounded by lots of toys
The town is also famous for having its local version of bibimbap (popular Korean dish made with sautéed and seasoned vegetables over a bed of white rice), giving it yet another food-related reason to visit Jeonju.
The journey from Beijing went smoothly and by early morning, I reached the center of Qingdao.
The city is quite modern with many interesting features to make it stand out from the rest.
Whilst the downtown is rather unimpressive, the seaside is what makes this little coastal town excel.
With a 40.6km path, the seaside should be fully traversed to fully enjoy the mix of architecture styles, natural beauties and bits of history still present in the area.
The Temple of Heaven makes great use of colors and space to convey the importance this location had in Ancient China. Surrounded by a beautiful park (straightforwardly named Temple of Heaven Park) and, often, by storms of tourists, it dominates the scene. As well as being a temple, it is an imperial complex containing multiple structures and buildings.
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
In fact, as the name hints, this temple is where emperors, regarded as Tiānzǐ (literally Son of Heaven), would go to connect with Heaven to pray for good harvest. Two special ceremonies were held here each year: one on winter solstice and the other on New Year’s Day. The winter solstice ceremony was deemed of utmost importance, any imperfection would be a bad omen for the harvest of the entire year.
During my stay in Beijing, I hung out with my two Argentinian travel mates and their local friend who they had met back in Europe.
Extremely friendly, easygoing and like-minded, he showed us bits of student life, excellent food and places.
After mentioning our interest in visiting the Great Wall, he told us he would bring us to a less well known spot near the village Changyucheng, as other parts of the wall can get crowded and partially icy.
A moment after sunset – View from the top of the mountain
And so our team, equipped with excitement, cameras and very little else, jumped into the car to head to Changyucheng.