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Rural Japan
Hiraizumi, home to the famous Chuson-ji temple complex, is a sleepy agricultural town. Though, in the 12th century it was settled by the Fujiwara family, which used it as a base to rule the northeast of Honshū island.

Odori Koen
Odori Koen (meaning Large Street Park), running west from the Sapporo TV Tower, is home to the annual Sapporo Snow Festival. The rest of the year it's a nice place to hang out and relax.

At its height Chuson-ji was made up of over 40 temples and shrines, though except for the Golden Hall all were destroyed by a fire in 1337.

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National newspaper
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National newspaper
The Japan Times
English language newspaper

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North Japan: Scenic Land

As you travel north from Tokyo the population density falls, life takes on a slower pace, and the temperature falls as well. The north offers many of Japan's top sights; within an hour of Sendai are both the island-covered bay of Matsushima as well as the great temple complex Chuson-ji. Further north there are some coastal cities/villages well worth a visit (like Hakodate and Otaru), and the majestic mountains of Hokkaido island make for great trekking.


Chuson-ji: Main temple Chuson-ji: Buddhist Utopia

Chuson-ji was originally founded in 850 by the priest Ennin, though it gained its promincence when it was expanded in the 12th century by the Fujiwara family. The great expansion of the temple complex was a grand plan to build a Buddhist utopia, but a massive fire in 1337 brought these plans to ashes. Only the Golden Hall survived the fire. The buildings you see today were rebuilt in the 17th century. Chuson-ji is reached from Sendai by shinkansen to Ichinoseki, and then the local train to Hiraizumi.

Matsushima: Top Three Sight

Just a short trainride from Sendai is the town of Matsushima, world famous in Japan. Matsushima Bay with its 250 islands is officialy one of the Three Great Sights of Japan. It gets crowded on almost any day of the year, with thousands of Japanese in line for one of the many 45 minute boatrides around the bay (alternatively catch a boat at Shiogama Pier). When you've tired of islands and temples give the local cuisine a try; Matsushima is a haven for oyster lovers.

Sapporo: North Capital

The city of Sapporo is Japan's fifth largest, and played host to the 1972 Winter Olympics. It is best known around the world for its beer, as well as the annual Yuki Matsuri ice sculpting festival. Among Japanese it is also well known for its fresh seafood.

Sendai: 1000 Generations

Sendai is the largest city in the Tōhoku (northeast) region, and was all but erased from the maps during the Allied bombing of WWII. It has since been rebuilt, with wide avenues and a relaxed atmosphere. It doesn't boast any historical sights (the most famous sight of the city is the railway station), but it's a pleasant city to stay between excursions to nearby attractions such as Matsushima and Chuson-ji. The name Sendai means 1000 generations, which was how long feudal lord Date Masamune expected his clan to rule.

Matsushima: Zuigan-ji Temple

The history of the Zuigan-Ji Temple in Matsushima dates back to 828. Though, the current buildings are from 1606, when the famous feudal lord Date Masamune constructed them as a family temple. Masamune was nicknamed Dokuganryū, meaning one-eyed dragon; he lost one eye to smallpox as a child, and pulled the infected eye out of his skull himself. In his time Masamune was responsible for turning nearby Sendai into a major cultural center.

The Japanese Toriis are gates that mark the entrance to sacred places, most commonly Shinto shrines, but also to Buddhist temples.

日本国 Nihon-koku

Largest city
127,400,000 (2006)
377,835 km²
Official language(s)
Constitutional monarchy

Japan National Tourist Organization
Official site
Japan Rail
National Railways Group
Japan Travel and Living Guide
Extensive guide to Japan
Outdoor Japan
All about the outdoors in Japan
Sapporo City
Official site
Sendai City
Official site
Work in Japan
Bilingual jobs site

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