Japan: temples, palaces and gardens

I would like to devote this post to Japanese temple, imperial palaces and just gardens. I believe, you can enjoy their beauty and sophistication regardless of your attitude towards monarchs, religion or concept of God in general.

Japan, Tokyo, Shinto shrine

A couple of words about religion. Buddhism and Shinto prevail in Japan, so these are the ones that I’m going to cover here. However, in general Japanese tend to associate themselves with few religions at the same time. Moreover, only 20% of population actually believes in any God.

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Japan: devil is in the detail

Distinctive features of Japan are well-thought design and attention to details. Compared to Russia the difference is easily visible: economy instead of wide scope, neatness instead of coarseness.This post is going to be a mixture of various interesting and maybe funny things that didn’t match any particular topic of other posts. So, what caught my inquisitive sight?

Take elevator, for instance. Notice additional buttons for children and disabled.

Japan Tokyo elevator design

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Japan: tea ceremony

This is the third post about Japan after the introductory and cuisine ones. Today I want to tell you about classic Japanese tea ceremony which I was lucky to participate in during my visit to Japan in Apr. 2010.It’s best to quote Wikipedia to give you an understanding of cultural meaning of tea ceremony in Japan:

Tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice”, and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of wabi. Wabi, meaning quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste, “is characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry [emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials

But let me show you the pictures from the one I actually experienced and provide few brief explanations.

The place itself was very beautiful with large windows to garden:

Japan: the place and nature

There are lots of rituals prior the ceremony itself but I will omit them for brevity.
Japan: tea ceremony, teapot

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Japan: cuisine and food

Well, you need to be the Captain Obvious to state that Japan has a very original and delicious cuisine. Variety of fish and seafood, unusual soups, seaweed, sashimi and of course sushi. Everything is fresh and delicious. You will like it if you’re open-minded in the first place.

Fortunately, we had an opportunity to try it all: the authentic cuisine in the expensive traditional restaurants, cheap fast-food-like cafes and a regular bento (Japanese lunch box) in the shinkansen (Japanese high-speed train). And all were good.

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Trip to Japan, impressions and beautiful pictures

My plans to visit Japan turned into reality! Thank you all for your recommendations! If I were to describe the trip in one word I would call it unforgettable. We usually slept for 4-7 hrs a night trying to experience as much as we could.

Japan, Tokyo, Shibuya crossing

Let me answer expected questions right away. How did I get there? Well, have been a PhD student in Higher School of Economics during the last year and a half. As I surprisingly still didn’t get kicked out I decided to participate in the organization of the student exchange with the Japanese Masters and PhD students in June 2009. Took days off at work and helped guys to get around the city and see lots of cool things.

Then, there was a long delay with no news. So, I saved some money and vacation days at work. But after 10 months the reciprocal trip was organized! And it was organized on the breath-taking level!

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