JAPAN-A RISING SPECTACLE By BHAVNA MATHUR

The Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, is a country with wonderfully varied charms and technological sophistication. ‘Nihon’ meaning sun origin signifies the fact that Japan lies towards the east of China. Hence, from the time of the Sui dynasty (589-618 A.D.), to facilitate correspondence with China, Japan came to be known as’ Nihon’ (‘The Land of the RisingSun’- in English).

Myriad visions unfold when the New Year marked by ‘Shimenawa’ decorations (twisted straw ropes for good luck) at entrances, takes you along, to explore Tokyo as it is. My husband and I, along with our two young sons enjoyed this trip to the hilt.

The Sensoji temple is dedicated to Avalokitesvara (BodhisatvaKannon). According to legend, a statue of the Kannon was found in the Sumida River in 628 by two fishermen, the brothers HinokumaHamanari and HinokumaTakenari. The chief of their village, HajinoNakamoto, recognized the sanctity of the statue and enshrined it by remodeling his own house into a small temple in Asakusa.The villagers could now worship Kannon. Shintoism and Buddhism echo the essence of religious history and rituals, along with Christianity.

The 333m tall Tokyo Tower takes on the city’s skyline as does the 634 meters (2,080 ft ) tall Skytree, with its broadcasting, restaurant and observation tower. While Skytree became the second tallest structure in the world after BurjKhalifa, Tokyo Tower, 13 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris built in 1958, is a communications and observation tower. Painted in white and international orange, it hastwo observation decks.

Mount Fuji located on Honshu Island, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). An active strato-volcano, it last erupted in 1707–08. Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometers south-west of Tokyo. Mount Fuji is snow-capped for several months in a year; known even for its mythological reasons, Mt. Fuji is visited by both tourists and climbers. It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku and was added to the World Heritage List on June 22, 2013.

The present Imperial Palace takes one back to the era when it was called the Edo Castle. The modern palace where imperial court functions are held is located in the old Nishinomaru, while the residence of the emperor and empress is located in the Fukiage Gardens.

Japan’s high speed trains (bullet trains) are called Shinkansen and are operated by Japan Railway (JR). Clocking a dizzyingly fast speed of 320km/hr, Shinkansen captures a powerful moment in the context of progress. The Japan Rail pass also makes it a cost-effective way of travelling. TokaidoShinkansen (Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka) is the oldest and most popular.

The byword of creative imagination and enterprise is The Rainbow Bridge.It is a suspension bridge crossing northern Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier and the Odaiba waterfront development in Minato, Tokyo. The vastness of the Bay remains below this marvelous bridge.

Evenings in Tokyo would always remain a memory to cherish, lit up with colourful lights, offering a wondrous view of the skyline, dotted with skyscrapers beaming with mercurial flashes of dazzling illumination.

Spectacular Tokyo Dome, flanked by a state –of-the art indoor stadium, has quite a handful of shopping, entertainment and eating options around its premises.

A tour around Nikko National Park makes for an unfailingly pleasurable trip. The first temple in Nikko was founded more than 1,200 years ago along the shores of the Daiya River. However the dying wish of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1616 led to the construction of shrines. As a result, Nikko became home of mausoleums of Tokugawa Shoguns. These are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Unlike most Japanese temples and shrines, these are gilded, ornate, with multicolour carvings, and show heavy Chinese influence. An overriding connect with Gandhiji’s three monkeys in India, are the distinctive three wise monkeys here. With plenty of hiking opportunities for those seeking adventure, Mt. Nantai, Lake Chuzenji and several lakes, mountains and waterfalls unravelling incredible scenic beauty,  across 13,000 hectares of lush terrain. Ski slopes and spas fill in, providing a wholesome experience.

Sports goods district, Akihabara-electronic goods district have convenient transportation links with the rest of Japan. Disneyland offers a thrilling spectacle of amazing rides, parades and fantasy. And who can forget the Doraemon Museum, an exciting haven for children fascinated by the rice-cake eating Doraemon who loves inventing new gadgets every now and then. My boys reveled in these.

Natural beauty, cutting-edge technology, tradition, modern cities, fast trains, visit Japan for a magicalexperience. Before we could realize, it was time to say Sayonara (Goodbye); but we looked forward to say Konnichiwa(Good day or hello) sometime again….

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