• NAKAFURANO, Japan - Tourists stroll through lavender fields at Farm Tomita in Nakafurano in Hokkaido, northern Japan, on July 18, 2019. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2019.07.19 | Hokkaido
  • OSAKA,Japan--About 70,000 light-emitting diode balls are lit up in blue on the river running through central Osaka on July 7, 2019. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2019.07.10 | Osaka
  • KOFU, Japan - A man dressed as a Tengu mountain spirit cuts sacred straw festoon with an ax during a ceremony at Komitake Shrine located at the fifth station on the Yamanashi Prefecture side of Mt. Fuji on July 1, 2019, to pray for safety as the climbing season starts at Japan's tallest mountain. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2019.07.01 | Shizuoka
  • Photo taken June 17, 2019, shows a torii gate at the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Shrine in Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan. Repair work on the gate commenced the same day. (Kyodo)
    2019.06.21 | Hiroshima
  • (EDS: THIS IS FIRST OF A 5-PART SERIES ON JAPAN HERITAGE) The Sendai domain, founded by regional warlord Date Masamune, established a distinctive culture combining the luxury and brilliance that marked Kyoto in the Momoyama period with the traditions of northeast Japan's Tohoku region. Cultural properties scattered in places such as Sendai and Tagajo cities and Matsushima Town in Miyagi Prefecture are designated as Japan Heritage sites by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. They reflect Masamune's sophisticated taste which helped establish "Date Culture." A sightseeing boat from Shiogama Port takes visitors on a tour around Matsushima, made up of 260 big and small islands and known as one of Japan's three most scenic views. The port can be reached from Honshiogama Station on East Japan Railway Co.'s Senseki Line from Sendai Station. Passengers, viewing Kanejima, Niojima, Futagojima and the other unique-looking islands just as the great haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) did when he visited the area, may wonder which to rank the highest for beauty. The boat arrives at Matsushima Port after sailing for about 50 minutes. Matsushima Town is known for Zuiganji, a Zen temple designated as a national treasure. The temple has various gold-leaf paintings on wall partitions introduced by Masamune (1567-1636) when it was rebuilt. But while visitors may marvel at their glittering beauty, they are also likely to be pleasantly surprised by the temple's simple yet refined ink wash paintings. "The coexistence of showiness and simplicity is the basis of Date Culture," a tour guide said. Masamune and feudal lords of the Date clan, who ruled the Sendai Domain of the Edo Period (1603-1868) for its entire history, preserved historic spots often mentioned in waka poems -- compositions using 31 syllables compared with the 17 of haiku and created much earlier. Suenomatsuyama and Okinoi, both in Tagajo, are among well-known places preserved by leaders of the clan and passed on to the present day. They are located close to each other, but comprising just a pine tree and pond, respectively, are not exactly Instagrammable. But as they were inspiring places for writers of poems included in the "Ogura Hyakunin Isshu," a classical anthology of one hundred waka by one hundred poets, it is fair to say that they are worth their weight in "heart" clicks. During the Nara and Heian periods (710-1185), Taga Castle was an outpost of the national government. A stone monument called "Tsubo no Ishibumi," erected in the eighth century, with an inscription engraved on it that gives the distance from the capital, remains on the site and has been admired by poetry lovers because of its appearance in many waka poems. Basho recounted his visit to the monument in his work of travel writing "Oku no Hosomichi," saying that he had been moved to tears. At the core of the glamorous Date Culture is a deep and tasteful beauty created through a long, enduring history. ==Kyodo
    2019.06.14 | Miyagi
  • TOKUSHIMA,JAPAN-The Awa Odori traditional dance festival is held in Tokushima Prefecture, western Japan, in August 2018. (Kyodo)
    2019.06.12 | Tokushima
  • TOKYO,Japan - Japanese iris flowers in full bloom at Horikiri Iris Garden in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward on June 5, 2019. In Tokyo's Katsushika where there is a famous iris festival that takes place at the Horikiri Iris Garden, where 6,000 irises of 200 kinds bloom, and at the Mizumoto Park, where 14,000 irises of 100 kinds bloom. Live music performances and other events also take place during the festival. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2019.06.06 | Tokyo
  • TAKETOMI, Japan - Photo taken May 16, 2019, shows Iriomote Island in Okinawa Prefecture, southern Japan, home to the Iriomote wild cat, a nationally protected species. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
    2019.05.22 | Okinawa
  • SHINGU, Japan - Green luminescent mushrooms nicknamed "forest fairies" in a western Japan mountain offer visitors a touch of fantasy, with this year's observation tours starting Saturday. The species of fungi called Mycena lux-coeli with a cap measuring 1 to 2 centimeters in diameter glows in rainy conditions due to the work of an enzyme that oxidizes luciferin, a light-emitting compound. It can only be found in Japan. The mushroom was first discovered on Hachijo Island in the Pacific in 1951 and on Mt. Mesame on Ugui Peninsula in Wakayama Prefecture in 2001. Currently, it can also be found in Mie, Hyogo, Oita and Miyazaki prefectures. A local group will host the tours every weekend from Saturday to July 14 as well as Sep. 1 to 29. The admission fee is 500 yen ($4.50) per adult and reservations should be made at least two days in advance. The mountain is off-limits except for the mushroom observation tours due to environmental conservation. "The glowing mushrooms are usually seen in rainy conditions in the summer and fall. I'd like visitors to experience the dreamy world," said Shigeru Nishigaito, a 79-year-old tour guide. ==Kyodo
    2019.05.10 | Wakayama
  • OITA, Japan - An enormous wooden "lucky cat" has been set up at one of this year's Rugby World Cup host cities in southwestern Japan, to welcome tourists ahead of the event's kickoff in September. The woodcarving of the 10-meter-long cat named "Giant Lounging Lucky Cat Fukunyan" is on display in the center of Oita, which is to host three preliminary matches and two quarterfinals. The cat is shown lying down with its forepaw holding up a sign with the word "TRY!" The cat was originally created in memory of the late sculptor Fumio Asakura, who was born in Oita Prefecture in 1883 and left many works featuring cats after studying at Tokyo University of the Arts. It is in the style of a "manekineko" beckoning cat, a common figurine in Japan that is regarded as inviting good luck. Graduate students of the university took part in making the cat, which will be on display through the end of the World Cup in November. "I hope overseas guests will talk about it as a rare statue," said Tsuyoshi Takahashi, a prefectural official in charge of promoting the sporting event. It was first displayed at the sculptor's museum in the city of Bungoono in the prefecture last autumn. ==Kyodo
    2019.04.23 | Oita
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