Life in Japan: Beautiful Japan

Japan is often known for its big cities, pop culture, and history. But did you know Japan has a lot of beautiful scenery? This week’s question comes from tlclark.

What is the most beautiful area you were able to visit in Japan?

I may have mentioned in the past that I didn’t actually do a whole lot of traveling around Japan. However, I have been able to visit plenty of beautiful places in the Tokyo area. But the most beautiful area? That’s a difficult question. There are a few candidates.

You could say Mt. Fuji is beautiful. Yes, from a distance it is. However, when you’re on Mt. Fuji, it’s mostly red rock, and some garbage thanks to inconsiderate climbers.

You could say the Shonan beach area is beautiful. Well, it can be, but it’s incredibly crowded in summer, and it’s not exactly the cleanest place, either.

But you know, I’d have to say that the most beautiful area I’ve been is a city I lived in for four years, Kamakura. It has a lot of old architecture, mainly shrines and temples. And when I say old, I mean they are around 800-900 years old. There’s a temple with an amazing bamboo forest. There’s a huge shrine with beautiful ponds and architecture. But my favourite is Hasedera. It has a wonderful view of Kamakura, a beautiful garden, and some amazing buildings. This temple is nearly 1300 years old, and has a giant wooden Kannon statue, which is one of the largest wooden statues in Japan. It’s more than 9 metres tall, and is also nearly 1300 years old. You can see many photos here. But here are some of my own.

The main hall of Hasedera.
The main hall of Hasedera.
Zen rock garden at Hasedera.
Zen rock garden at Hasedera.

The view from Hasedera of Kamakura, Miura Peninsula and Sagami Bay.
The view from Hasedera of Kamakura, Miura Peninsula and Sagami Bay.

Have a question about life in Japan? Go here and ask in the comments.

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A Few Hours From Pluto

New Horizons is flying past Pluto in only a few hours. We’ve been receiving more images, though they will continue to be scant over the coming days. You see, as it’s passing Pluto, the camera will be focused on it and Charon, which means that the high gain antenna will not be pointed toward Earth. We have to wait for the good pictures.

However, we do have some new images. Here is the latest for Pluto.

Pluto on July 12, 2015.
Pluto on July 12, 2015.

As you can see, there are craters, the dark regions around the equator, and guess what? An ice cap! That’s right, Pluto has an ice cap of nitrogen and methane. That was predicted, and it seems it was correct. Also, the diameter has been discovered to be 2,370 km, which is larger than thought. In fact, it turns it out it’s larger than Eris. Pluto is the largest Kuiper belt object that we know of. One thing that’s remarkable to me, though, is the mottled surface. It looks a lot like Triton in that respect. You can also see the bright area on the left side is rotating into view. It’s going to be the focus of the high resolution images.

On to Charon, which I have neglected to talk about.  Here’s the latest from Pluto’s largest moon.

Charon on July 12, 2015.
Charon on July 12, 2015.

There’s an obvious crater in this image, and the pole is dark. I wonder why. But to the right of the bright crater is what looks like a chasm. This chasm is larger than the Grand Canyon.

So far, Charon looks like it could be found around a planet like Saturn with its chasm and grey appearance. We’ll see how it looks with higher resolution images in the coming days and weeks. Pluto, on the other hand, looks like it could be a cousin of Triton’s. Very interesting.

What’s surprised you so far about Pluto and Charon?