JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when in crowds.


Most viewed - Kora 甲良町
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Statue of Lord Todo Takatora (in Kora, Shiga Prefecture) who became the 11th lord of Tsu Castle (Mie Pref.) in 1608. Behind it is the Takatora Waterfall.601 views
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In 1604 at age 30, the Tokugawa government called him to Edo to supervise the building of Zojoji temple (where many Tokugawa shoguns are buried). He also supervised the building of the famous Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. This same statue is at Toshogu Shrine.407 views
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Near Kora Town Hall is this statue of Kora Bungo-no-Kami Munehiro (1574-1646). Born here, he started a famous lineage of shrine/temple carpenters. 甲良豊後守宗廣 MAP358 viewsHe supervised the construction of many famous buildings.
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Oda Nobunaga burned Saimyoji right after scorching Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. Fortunately, the main hall and the pagoda survived. 3-story pagoda, a National Treasure332 views
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Zaiji Hachiman Shrine also has wisteria which bloom in early May. Planted by Todo Kagemori, the founder of the Todo clan in the 14th century.320 views
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3-story pagoda and fall colors. Photography is not allowed inside, but I highly recommend going inside. Admission 1,000 yen.273 views
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Torii gate to Zaiji Hachiman Shrine in Kora, Shiga.251 views
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Zaiji Hachiman Shrine, the family shrine of the Todo clan. This place in Zaiji (Kora, Shiga) was Lord Todo Takatora's birthplace. Takatora later became lord of Tsu Castle in Mie Prefecture. MAP236 views
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At the top of the stairs213 views
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Ninja show209 views
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Cute warrior196 views
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Japan's first National Treasure undergoing renovation of the roof. Saimyoji temple's Hondo hall (National Treasure) in Kora, Shiga. 本堂195 viewsIn 1571, Oda Nobunaga ordered Saimyoji to be burned down right after scorching Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. Fortunately, this Kamakura-Period main hall and the pagoda survived.
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Incredibly beautiful194 views
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Established in 834 and located in Kora-cho town, Saimyoji is a Tendai Buddhist temple and the northern-most one in the Koto Sanzan Temple Trio. Map of temple grounds.191 viewsThe main temple hall, designated as Japan's first National Treasure, houses statues of gods with a carving of the 12 Oriental Zodiac signs on the head. Accessible by bus from Amago Station on the Omi Railway Line.
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Saimyoji temple Hondo Hall (National Treasure) in Kora, Shiga. In 1571, Oda Nobunaga ordered Saimyoji to be burned down right after torching Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. Fortunately, this Kamakura-Period main hall and the pagoda survived. 本堂176 views
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The Takatora Summit was held in Kora-cho's Zaiji area on May 9, 2010. It was Kora's second time to host the summit. The first time was in 2000. Zaiji Hachiman Shrine was one of the festival venues.172 views
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My YouTube video of the Takatora Summit in Kora.164 views
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Small shrine near the entrance to Shimonogo.132 views
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Kora town manhole with a wisteria design taken from Zaiji Hachiman Shrine, Shiga Pref.123 views
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Takatora Summit in Kora, Shiga122 views
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Dig this van with a ninja on top.121 views
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Front gate. This is where you pay the admission fee of 500 yen. During fall, the autumn leaves are brilliant, and you can enter the three-story pagoda (National Treasure) to see the wall paintings. MAP117 views
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3-story pagoda, a National Treasure115 viewsIn 1571, Oda Nobunaga ordered Saimyoji to be burned down right after scorching Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei. Fortunately, this Kamakura-Period main hall and the pagoda survived. The pagoda is 23.7 meters high.
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The path was a stunning showcase for autumn foilage.113 views
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Convenient shuttle bus. Visit Kongorinji temple next.112 viewsDuring the peak fall season from mid-Nov., you can buy an Omi Railway train/bus pass for only 1,800 yen to visit all three Koto Sanzan temples plus Eigenji Temple. Ride on the Omi Railway Line to the closest train station (Hikone or Yokaichi) and hop on a shuttle bus like this one to visit the Koto Sanzan Temple Trio, plus Eigenji. There's a shuttle bus every hour or so that shuttle between the four temples. The pass is good for 1 day.
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The festivities and summit ended at 6:30 pm.111 views
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Saimyoji was my favorite Koto Sanzan temple107 views
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Tourists come by the busloads99 views
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Hondo grounds97 views
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Soon after you enter the temple, you see this "continuously blooming" cherry tree (fudan-zakura) planted next to a tree showing fall colors. This special cherry tree blooms in Nov. during the fall colors. 不断桜93 views
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Inside Saimyoji temple's Hondo hall.92 views
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Saimyoji's 3-story pagoda, a National Treasure.92 views
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Zaiji is about a 20-min. walk from Amago Station. Quaint general store in Zaiji. Looks like Japan from the 1950s or '60s.91 views
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Cherry blossoms which bloom in Nov. This is full bloom. Not as glorious as the cherries in spring, but unusual to see them in Nov. 不断桜87 views
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Horaitei garden86 views
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Shinmei no Taki waterfalls are these small waterfalls along the road. Kora, Shiga Prefecture.84 views
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Cherry blossoms which bloom in Nov. Designated as a Natural Monument and Cultural Property of Shiga. 不断桜80 views
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Crossing the Meishin expressway. There's a bridge over a busy and noisy expressway which you cross to get to the other side of the temple grounds.73 views
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Temple grounds71 views
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Hondo grounds71 views
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Ohmi Railways Amago Station, Kora town's only train station. It is parallel to the shinkansen bullet train tracks on the left.71 views
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View from gate70 views
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Miniature Kannon. Pay money to have your name under one of them.70 views
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Autumn leaves and stone wall69 views
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Closeup of pagoda67 views
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Nitenmon Gate to main temple (Hondo)66 views
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Miniature Kannon64 views
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Temple bell, donate 50 yen to ring it64 views
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Stairs to autumn heaven. Up to here, the path was just filled with colors. And more still awaited.63 views
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Temple bell63 views
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I thought the fall colors were most abundant at Saimyoji. We could also enter the 3-story pagoda, a National Treasure. (You cannot enter the pagoda at the other temples.)63 views
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3-story pagoda, a National Treasure60 views
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View from gate59 views
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During the peak autumn season in Nov., the public is allowed to enter the pagoda to view the precious paintings on the wooden walls and pillars.59 views
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11-faced Kannon statue59 views
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Veil of autumn leaves. Only several people can fit inside the first floor of the pagoda at one time, so you may have to wait in line.58 views
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3-story pagoda, a National Treasure56 views
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Shrine maiden mascot from Taga, Shiga.54 views
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Tora-nyan, Kora's official mascot.51 views
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Shiromochi-kun from Tsu. シロモチくん51 views
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Capping the day's events was the Takatora Taiko troupe from Tsu. 高虎太鼓51 views
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Samurai procession on stage.48 views
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Zaiji was the former Todo village (藤堂村). Lord Todo Takatora was a famous daimyo who was expert at building castles. He had a hand in building castles in Tsu, Kameyama, Imabari, Edo, and more.46 views
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Toramaru from Tsu, Mie.45 views
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They wear home-made armor.44 views
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Mayors vow to meet at the next Takatora Summit.42 views
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Hiko-nyan40 views
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A giant taiko drum was also on display at the shrine.38 views
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Statue of Takatora in a pond at Takatora Park.38 views
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Ohmi Railways Amago Station front view. 尼子駅37 views
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Kora Shrine torii. MAP37 views
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Toramaru from Tsu, Mie. 藤堂とらまる37 views
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At 3 pm, the keynote speaker gave a talk about Takatora.37 views
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Afterward, they played traditional games.37 views
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Walking around Zaiji is quite pleasant. Rural area with traditional-style homes. The murmuring of streams is everywhere.37 views
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Little shrine in Shimonogo Sports Park36 views
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A ninja show performed by an Iga-ryu ninja trouope called Kurondo from Iga, Mie. 黒党36 views
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Each mascot was introduced in detail by its handler.35 views
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Sightseeing map of Kora-cho.35 views
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The Amago Station building is called the Amago Community House. Built in Nov. 2003, it's still quite new, but looks under used.34 views
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Shimonogo Sports Park34 views
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This booth was from Iga, Mie Prefecture.34 views
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Banner reads "Birthtplace of Lord Todo Takatora."34 views
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Kora Shrine (Kora Jinja) 甲良神社33 views
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Iga's booth.33 views
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Zaiji has numerous little streams along the roads and houses. You often see flowering plants decorating the streams. It is one of the town's symbols.33 views
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Ohmi Railways Amago Station platform. The station building (community house) can be seen ahead on the left.32 views
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Entering Ohmi Railways Amago Station which is also a community house.32 views
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Ohmi Railways train near Amago Station. Also see my YouTube video here.32 views
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Kora Jinja's Gonden Hall32 views
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Non-chan is a horse from Imabari. Imabari Castle was built by Takatora. のんちゃん32 views
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They drummed on the giant taiko.32 views
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Kora Shrine32 views
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Ohmi Railways Amago Station side view31 views
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On the right of the Honden Hall is this Kora-ishi rock. Although the triangular rock looks small above ground, it is believed to be a huge rock underground. Size unknown. They say that touching the rock brings misfortunes. So it is fenced off. 甲良石31 views
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Mayor of Tsu, Mie Prefecture. Tsu Castle was built by Takatora.31 views
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Ninta and Shinobu ninja mascots from Iga. Iga-Ueno Castle was renovated by Takatora who constructed high castle walls. にん太・しのぶ31 views
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Azalea and stream31 views
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Kora Shrine Honden is another Kora Shrine. Also called Hoyoji temple. The Honden main hall was repaired by Kora Bungo-no-Kami Munehiro.31 views
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A short walk from Zaiji is the entrance to Shimonogo, another small cluster of homes in Kora town.30 views
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More roadside streams with flowers.30 views
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"Say hello before the other says hello." Conveying the importance of greeting people.30 views
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Zaiji Hachiman Shrine also offered a rest place where tea and sweets were served.30 views
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The road from Hachiman Shrine to Takatora Park. Another giant taiko drum.30 views
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The shrine's Haiden Hall was used as an entertainment stage during the Takatora Summit in Kora.30 views
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More booths.30 views
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Mayor of Iga, Mie.30 views
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At 2 pm, the "Summit" was held on stage.30 views
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Kora Shrine29 views
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Kora Shrine29 views
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Waterwheel too.29 views
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Togenkyo monument 桃源郷の碑29 views
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"Keep our rivers clean"29 views
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Torii to Zaiji Hachiman Shrine, the birthplace of Todo Takatora (1556-1630). Since 1998, the Takatora Summit has been held once every two years in one of four places (Kora, Tsu and Iga in Mie, and Imabari, Ehime) having a close connection with Takatora.29 views
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Mayor's representative from Imabari, Ehime.29 views
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Zaiji Hachiman Shrine's Honden main hall.29 views
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Large stone Lord Takatora once transported to rebuild Osaka Castle. It was abandoned in Kiso River. Called the "Consolation Stone." 残念石29 views
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About Zaiji Hachiman Shrine in Japanese and English.29 views
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Kora Shrine Honden Hall28 views
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Kora Shrine Honden Hall28 views
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View of rice fields on the way back to Amago Station.28 views
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Katsuragi Waterfall 桂城の滝28 views
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The beautiful wisteria was in full bloom. The name "Todo" includes the kanji character for "fuji" or wisteria. 藤28 views
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The road near Takatora Park was lined with souvenir booths and food stalls.28 views
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This was good, from Kora.28 views
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Mayors and other dignitaries look forward to the next Takatora Summit at Iga-Ueno Castle. Each city take turns hosting the summit held every two years. The last time Kora hosted it was in 2000.28 views
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Zaiji Hachiman Shrine's Haiden Hall.28 views
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Local museum dedicated to Kora Bungo-no-Kami Munehiro. Unfortunately, the museum was closed when I was there. It's open only once or twice a week or so.28 views
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Kora Shrine27 views
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Kora Shrine's Gonden Hall is on the left of the Honden main hall. This is an Important Cultural Property. It used to be the Honden before the shrine was renovated in 1883. 権殿27 views
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Shimonogo 桂城神社27 views
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Hikone's Hiko-nyan also made it to the summit. Hikone is Kora's the neighboring city.27 views
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Zaiji Hachiman Shrine's Honden main hall.27 views
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Stone lanterns with the Todo family crest.27 views
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Sightseeing pamphlets from all the Takatora-related cities who came.26 views
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Sculptures made of styrofoam.26 views
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Takatora Park was decorated with these banners.26 views
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Takatora Park was the main venue for the Takatora Summit. The first program started at 11 am and they introduced official mascots from Takatora-related cities.26 views
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About 10 mascot characters were introduced on stage.26 views
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Mochi-tsuki.26 views
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A short walk from Zaiji Hachiman Shrine is Takatora Park, dedicated to Zaiji's most famous son, Lord Todo Takatora who became lord of Tsu Castle in Mie. MAP26 views
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Inside Ohmi Railways Amago Station25 views
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Kora Shrine's Gonden Hall is believed to date from the early Edo Period.25 views
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Shinkansen in the distance.25 views
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Day's schedule.25 views
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The MC was Kayme, radio personality from from FM Shiga (e-radio). She introduced the names of all the mascots on stage. ケイミー25 views
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From Kameyama, Kyoto. Kameyama Castle was built by Akechi Mitsuhide and Takatora contributed to later construction. Only castle walls and moats remain. Now occupied by a religious group.25 views
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By coincidence, I've been to all these castles related to Takatora.25 views
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Jogakuji temple of the Jodo Shinshu Sect held a terakoya session. A short walk from Takatora Park. 浄覚寺25 views
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Kora Town Hall. MAP25 views
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Also see my YouTube video here.24 views
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Even before the spring flowers bloom, they find ways to color the streams.24 views
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Todo Takatora sake.24 views
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Local sightseeing map in stone.24 views
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Statue of Lord Todo Takatora who became lord of Tsu Castle in Mie.24 views
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About Kora Bungo-no-Kami Munehiro.24 views
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Nenshoji temple 念称寺23 views
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Terakoya session at Jogakuji temple. There was a storyteller, kami-shibai, and traditional games for kids.23 views
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Kora Shrine Honden Hall22 views
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The keynote speaker was Abe Ryutaro, a novelist who wrote a novel about Takatora. Some people hope that his novel will be turned into a TV drama series. 安部龍太郎22 views
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Nenshoji temple is noted for its standing wooden Buddha statue designated as a Cultural Property of Kora town.21 views
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Before schools were established in Japan, the temples served as educational institutions for the children. 浄覚寺 寺子屋の再現21 views
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