Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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

As the tide rolls in toward Itsukushima Shrine, water floods over the massive wooden legs of Torii Gate on Miyajima Island, just across the bay from Hiroshima, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. A waxing tide floods the massive wooden legs of Torii Gate on Miyajima Island. The entire island, located across the bay from Hiroshima, Japan, is a spiritual wonderland. Designated as one of the top three most beautiful sites in Japan, it is covered in shrines, the most famous of which is Itsukushima Shrine. Read More

Wedding at Shukkei-en Garden in Hiroshima, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. Lovely Shukkei-en Garden in Hiroshima, Japan, was created in 1620 by Ueda Soko, a renowned master of the tea ceremony. Located near the hypocenter of the Atomic Bomb blast, the gardens were extensively damaged during WWII. In the months following the bombing, the gardens were closed to the public and used as a refuge for victims of the war. In 1951, they were restored and reopened. Shukkei-en Garden is an oasis of serenity, with Read More

The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan

Click on title to view photo in large format. During WWII, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, flattening almost everything within a three-kilometer radius. One of the few exceptions was this building, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, an arts and education exhibit hall. It was the only structure left standing near the hypoenter of the blast. Read More

Just the idea of traveling to Japan can be intimidating. It is a culture like no other around the globe, with a unique language, food, and cultural rules. Having just spent two weeks there, I thought it would be good to pass along the following things to know before traveling to Japan.

  • It is considered impolite to blow your nose in public
  • Take off your shoes when entering a private home or tea house
One of the most important things to know before traveling to Japan is that you will be expected to take off your shoes before entering a private home or a tea house

One of the most important things to know before traveling to Japan is that you will be expected to take off your shoes before entering a private home or a tea house

  • When making a purchase in a store, put money in the tray that sits on the counter. Your change will be placed there by the clerk for you to pick up.
  • Japanese greet one another with a short bow and you should do likewise. Only offer your hand to shake if they do so first.
  • People in service industries will often bow to you. For instance, conductors on trains, turn around at the head of each carriage and bow to the passengers before leaving.
  • When leaving temples, you should turn around at the entrance and bow to the altar
  • Few Japanese I met admitted to speaking English. More puzzling, unlike in most other countries I have visited, older Japanese seemed more adept at English than younger ones
  • Other than signs on highways, streets, in train stations, metro stations, and airports, you will find very little written English
  • A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese guest house where you will sleep on tatami-covered floor mats, over which a thick futon mattress is placed. You may be expected to make up your own bed. The only other furniture may be a low table with a chair back and perhaps a lamp on the floor.

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