Sunday, December 5, 2010

JAPAN HERITAGE Matsushima: A seascape that left poet Basho at a loss for words


Legend has it that even Matsuo Basho, the celebrated 17th-century haikuist and travel writer, was at a loss for words when he first gazed at Matsushima.
The locale that so moved the man who perfected the art of haiku is about 14 kilometers from east to west, and 12 kilometers north to south. It encompasses a scenic coastline and 270 or so islets, all covered in pine trees, in Matsushima Bay, in Miyagi Prefecture.
photoAn aerial view of Matsushima Bay off Miyagi Prefecture (ASAHI SHIMBUN FILE PHOTO)
Matsushima is considered one of the country's top three coastal scenic spots, along with Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. Since the Edo Period (1603-1867), Matsushima has been a favorite theme of both writers and artists.
It is within easy access of Sendai, the capital of the prefecture--less than a half-hour train ride.
Matsushima's charms are not seasonally challenged. It is a destination for all seasons--cherry blossoms in spring, beautiful leaves changing colors in fall, swimming and fishing in summer and a crystal view of the bay in winter. And regardless of the time of year, history fans will find much to see, do and learn.
Of course, Matsushima is noted for its seafood, including "anago" sea eels in summer and oysters in winter. There is no reason a visitor cannot try them at various restaurants, many of which offer great views of the bay.
After lunch you might want to hop aboard a tour boat for a bay trip. The boats follow predetermined times and routes to see the best the bay has to offer at just the right times of the day.
Hot tip: The lookout point at Otakamori on Miyatojima island in eastern Matsushima is considered the best spot to watch the sun go down.
For early risers, people say the best place to view the sun making its appearance is Saigyomodoshi no Matsu Park on the coast near Matsushima-Kaigan Station.
The station also provides access to Zuiganji temple, the most famous Zen temple of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism in the Tohoku region. It is believed to have been built in 828 and reconstructed in 1609 by warrior lord Date Masamune (1567-1636). Its main hall, corridors and even its Zen kitchen are designated national treasures.
Nearby is the small island of Ojima, once a training center for different Buddhist sects. It all began, so they say, when the ascetic Kenbutsu took up residence in the 12th century and spent the next dozen years reciting sutras all day long. Naturally, this much effort was rewarded with great spiritual power.
For those seeking more earthly pleasures, there is aquarium Marine Pia, noted for its waddling penguins, and a music box museum, Matsushima Orgel Museum. Both are within walking distance of Matsushima-Kaigan Station.
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Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Sendai Station and transfer to JR Senseki Line. It's a 25-minute ride to Matsushima-Kaigan Station.
From Sendai Station, the JR Tohoku Line is also available. Get off at Matsushima Station.
Sightseeing boats are available from a pier near Matsushima-Kaigan Station.
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Monkeys ecstatic as hot spring opens


About 100 Japanese monkeys eagerly clambered into a hot spring, stretching their limbs and getting loose on Wednesday, the first day their pool was filled at Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden in Hokkaido.
The primates chattered appreciatively--especially the creaky oldsters--as they slipped into the soothing water. The day was a cold one, with temperatures sliding below zero.
The primates will be able to loll about in the bath until the season ends in early May.
According to garden officials, Japanese monkeys, much like Japanese themselves, tend to be fussy about water temperature.
The monkeys demand the water be heated to 41 degrees and won't get in the pool if it isn't, the officials said.
photoJapanese monkeys relax in a hot spring bath at Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden in Hokkaido on Wednesday. (Yasuhiro Sugimoto)

Mario 25th Anniversary Book Coming To Japan [Amazon Japan Listing Mario Anniversary Book For $10, Features Mario Soundtrack, Manga & Stickers]


Posted December 4th 2010 by Kevin Schram

This year is the 25th anniversary of Super Mario Bros’ first gracing our Nintendo NES consoles all those years ago. Nintendo hasn’t passed up the chance for a celebration, and they’ve released special game consolesheld parties and decorated buses. Now in Japan, they’re selling a special book that looks back on the 25 years of Mario.
Mario 25th Anniversarg Commerative Book
A ‘commemorative book’ was included with the purchase of “Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition”, but this looks to be one of those collectible one-off magazine deals. It’s being published by Enterbrain and Amazon Japan is asking just ¥840 ($11) for the magazine.
What does it include? An interview with Shigeru Miyamoto (we suspect it will be the same Miyamoto-Itoi interview that Nintendo published in October on their website – still a great read), some Mario manga, stickers, a poster, and a CD containing Mario music from the Press Start Symphony of Games. All-in-all, this tome comes to about 144-pages long.
The special 25th anniversary edition gear that was released in Japan also eventually made its way to Europe and North America – but that being said, I don’t know if this will make it out of Japan. Some folks have announced that they’ll be importing it from Japan via Amazon Japan. Expect to pay about $30 in shipping, the little birdies say.

Read: Mario 25th Anniversary Book Coming To Japan [Amazon Japan Listing Mario Anniversary Book For $10, Features Mario Soundtrack, Manga & Stickers] » TFTS – Technology, Gadgets & Curiosities