Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Senso-ji Temple, said to be the heart and soul of Tokyo, Japan, is most spectacular at night

Click on title to view photo in large format. Senso-ji Temple, located in the traditional Tokyo neighborhood of Asakusa, is said to be the heart and soul of the city. During the day, huge crowds of locals and visitors flock to the site. On the approach to the main hall, they light incense at the giant urn and allow purifying smoke to waft over their bodies. At the top of the main hall steps they pause again to pray, bowing reverently three times.

While Senso-ji temple is a beehive of activity during the day, the most spectacular time to visit is at night. After dark, the crowds have dispersed and the temple structures are Read More

Using the Metro in Tokyo, Japan, can be a bit daunting. I’ve ridden subways in cities all over the world, from Shanghai to Paris to New York City, but none is more complex than the system in Tokyo. Even the official map of the system looks like so much spaghetti.

An underground station of the Metro in Tokyo

An underground station of the Metro in Tokyo

The single most confusing issue is that not all lines are operated by the same company. Some are owned by private railway companies, while others are operated by the city. Tickets are not interchangeable between the city lines and private companies, so you need to plan ahead. Decide ahead of time which lines you plan to use, in order to purchase the correct ticket. Read More

Japanese girl with umbrella shelters from the sun in Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. Japan’s weather ranges from brutally cold winters to sweltering summer sun and monsoon rains. This Japanese girl with umbrella in Tokyo’s Hama-rikyu Gardens already knows how to use her umbrella against sun and rain. While the practice of carrying umbrellas makes for precious photos, Japanese tend to be much shorter than me. As a result, Read More

Main Hall at Zojoji Temple complex in Tokyo, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. Zojoji Temple is a mere shadow of the complex that once stood on the present day site in Tokyo, Japan. In past centuries, 3,000 priests lived there, working and praying in more than 48 temples and 150 schools.

Zojoji Temple is, however, still home to the mausoleums of six Tokugawa Shoguns and their family members. It’s 69-foot high entrance gate is the oldest wooden structure in Tokyo and the only remaining part of the original temple. The complex is also famous for its giant Read More

Five-storied Pagoda on Miyajima Island, near Hiroshima, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. The Five-storied Pagoda on Miyajima Island, near Hiroshima, Japan, was built in 1407. It is dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine, and originally held images of the deity and some lesser saints. Unfortunately, the images were removed around the beginning of the 20th century, when Japan was emerging from its feudal society. Although the building overwhelmingly displays features in the Japanese style of construction, it also incorporates some Chinese design elements. The most unique feature is the pagoda’s central pillar, which Read More

“Hey look at that! The taxi driver opened his door while he was driving down the street toward a passenger.” Matt, the 16-year old son of my traveling companions, Leanne and Tony Argyle, pointed out what turned out to be a neat bit of technology. In Japan, taxi drivers push a button to automatically open the rear door as they pull up to a passenger.

Vending machines are ubiquitous and not quite as difficult as learning how to use a toilet in Japan

Vending machines are ubiquitous and not quite as difficult as learning how to use a toilet in Japan

Automatic taxi doors were just the tip of the iceberg. There were vending machines that sold almost anything imaginable, even cigarettes! My young friend and his sister, Cailtin, wondered about the potential for minors to purchase smokes. A quick Google search put our minds at ease. A chipped, adult ID card is required to purchase cigarettes from vending machines. The Argyles spent one day at a Japanese auto plant and returned with tales of life-size dancing robots. Even the parking garages are high-tech. Read More