Top Historical Places in Japan

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Prodigiously energetic Japanese people have given a complete western makeover to their country in last two centuries. Previously it was just an island country with rich homogenous oriental culture.

The transition has left clear impacts on Japanese society, culture and economy. Rapid urbanization is crowding out traditional villages in many places. However, it left no dent on legendary cordiality of Japanese people. Japan is the safest place to travel alone or with family. Best attraction is of course the historical places. They are too many; we’ll see top few.

Goryokaku Fort, Hakodate

1. Goryokaku Fort / 五稜郭

It is in Hakodate City of Hokkaido Island. This is the first and the largest western-styled star-shaped fortification in Japan. Loyalists to old regime fought against Meiji government from this fort in 1868. Fort was laid into ruins after the war. In 1913, after the restoration work, fort site was opened as Goryokaku Park. Flowering cherry trees are now famous attractions here.

2. Taga Castle Ruins / 多賀城

Taga Castle ruins are in Tagajo City of Miyagi Prefecture in Tohoku. This is the northeastern part of the country. The history of castle dates back to 8th century Japan. Central government of Japan used to rule northern regions from this castle. This was military and administrative base. It played distinct military role during unification of Japan under the central governance. Today, you will find restored foundation of that ancient castle in the site.

3. Imperial Palace / 皇居

Residence to Emperor of Japan, this palace sits in the middle of Tokyo city. Residence is of course not open to public; however you can and should visit the imperial gardens. They are East Garden, Outer Garden and Kitanomaru Garden. They are typical recreation place to common people in Tokyo. East Garden is now at the same place where administrative block of Edo castle were before. Outer Garden is specious and holds remains of watchtower of old castle. In Kitanomaru Park, you’ll find lot of public facilities like stadium and museum.

Kenrokuen in soring

4. Kenrokuen / 兼六園

Kenrokuen means ‘garden combining six’. It is has all attributes of a good garden – spaciousness, quietness, stateliness, water and rock, human strength and beautiful views. It sits in the middle of Kanazawa City of Ishikawa Prefecture. Originally it was the private garden of Maeda family, who used to stay in adjacent Kanazawa castle. The garden covers around 25 acres of land with Kasumigaike pond in the center. You’ll find hills, streams, smaller water bodies and falls within this garden. It holds almost 400 cherry trees.

5. Usuki Stone Buddhas / 臼杵磨崖仏

These stone-sculpted Buddha statues date back to the period between 12th and 14th century. You’ll find two types of statues. First type was carved out from stone-sides of hills. Other type was sculpted from freestanding stones. There are six groups of statues and with total 60 statues in number. They are the example of finest craftsmanship. Today historians believe that these sculptures were work of wood-carvers. Because of natural wood-carving skills, stone statues got well-chiseled look. Statues have suffered lot of weathering as they are made from soft stone. After restoration in early 20th century, Government declared them as National Treasure.

Beside these 5, there are numerous castles, palaces, gardens and temples throughout Japan. They remind what Japan was before its transition into modernity.