Recently I wrote about a beautiful hike up Mount Takao in Tokyo. Two of the amazing features of the hike are the Buddhist temple and Shinto shrines along the way. In fact one of the wonderful things about Japan in general is the large number of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that dot the country along with the hundreds of thousands of statues that live along road sides, in little houses, and in just about every nook and cranny you can think of.

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The hike up to Mt. Takao is filled with religious and everyday statues. The forest is packed with them, either reminding you of Buddhist precepts, celebrating a piece of nature like a waterfall or a large tree, or just being cute and adding to the neighborhood character. A lot of people have written to me since my last post asking for more pictures of the hike. As I like to make people happy, here is a slideshow of the Statues of Mt. Takao. I hope you enjoy.

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If you liked the video, let us know below in the comments, or feel free to share it with a friend.

Children line up straight for gym class

Don't you wish you could get your children to be so disciplined?

Welcome to the weekly Where in the World? Travel Photo Contest! We have a great list of travel photos and bloggers lined up to challenge your world travel knowledge each and every Friday.

If you’re new or never bothered to actually read what I write, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) either from a featured travel blogger guest (see below for details on how to guest post) or from my own travels and you guess where it is. Due to the popularity of featuring other travel bloggers I plan to host other peoples’ travels and photos for as long as there is interest (get in touch!).

This week’s photo comes from Kyle and his great around the world blog The Inquisitive Travelers.

The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, Region, and nearest Large City) will win a link back to their blog and all the fame and glory associated! Congratulations to Leng who won last weeks contest by knowing how to suck exhaust in Bangkok, Thailand.

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below (comment luv should take care of the second part).

Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention. Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments and stories (don’t forget the praise) are welcome!

Let’s invite as many people as possible! Please consider tweeting or sharing on Facebook

Be a Guest Photographer

If you’re looking to help increase the visibility of your blog, drive more traffic, or just share your pretty pictures then why not be a guest photographer for Photo Contest Friday on Todd’s Wanderings! This is no longer as new feature as we have had 5 weeks of guest posters and have the next 3 weeks filled already!

If you’re interested in having your photograph featured then send me an e-mail through my Todd’s Wanderings Contact Page with the Subject line: Photo Contest Friday. Don’t forget to tell me which site your coming from and I’ll be in touch and explain how to send the photo. Keep in mind that your photo should be awesome!

The photograph should be your own and should have a few small clues in the photo to help the reader out if they’ve never been there (no, I don’t follow this last rule myself all the time…but it’s my website). I’ll link to your page and talk you up as the guest poster. I can be very flattering when I want to be.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You should be an independent travel blogger. I love helping the little guy…or gal.

tengu statue on takaosan in Tokyo

Long nose, check, wings, check, stern face, check...gotta love those tengu

I bet you didn’t know you could hike in Tokyo! I bet you didn’t know you could hike with mountain gods (well ok they are minor mountain kami)! Most people only see the hip (or crazy) fashion of Harajuku, the stately Emperor’s Palace and the blinding neon signs of Shinjuku at night when they think about Tokyo. Packed trains ferrying 10 million people in and out the city each day, name brand department stores, and tourist swamped temples either excite a visitor or make them run screaming away from Tokyo. But there are more things to do in Tokyo than meets the eye and the visitor or resident can have both the packed cultural experience of the world’s largest city and a nice day of hiking out in the mountains.

winding path up takaosan in Tokyo Japan

This is the Biwa path that runs up a stream to the summit

Just 2 days before the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan I was enjoying views of Mount Fuji from the top of the heavily wooded Mount Takao, one of the closest nature escapes to Tokyo. Located in the “city” of Hachijoji it is still within the metropolitan borders of Tokyo and lies a mere 50 km from the center of the city. That’s nothing when you take into account Japan’s fantastic train system. Fifty minutes and just 370 yen later and you can get from Shinjuku to the foot of the hiking trail.

Mount Takao has a network of well marked hiking trails, a beautiful old Buddhist temple, the top is one of the 100 famous views of Mt Fuji, and if you want to hike further the trails go deeper into the Meji Memorial National Park. Commonly referred to as Takao-san, the area is considered sacred and has been the focus of mountain ascetic worship for over 1,000 years.

Temple gate leading to Yakuoin Temple on Mt Takaosan

Come in the evening and the lanterns are lit up

Half way up the mountain sits the Buddhist Temple Takaosan Yakuōin Yūkiji one of the most beautiful in the area with its multiple levels and bright painting reminiscent of Chinese temples and those of Nikko further to the north. Visitors pray to the Shinto-Buddhist mountain gods, the tengu, who are former men who transformed themselves through ascetic practice which embodies the yamabushi (mountain ascetics). Statues of Buddhist arhats, and long nosed tengu with crow beaks, dot the mountain paths and add to the feeling of sacredness of the area.

buddhist statues in Japan on Takaosan

88 statues line the temple. Leave 1 yen at each to make you prayer come true

There are six different main tails leading to the top of the mountain, as well as a cable car for those who just can’t manage to pull themselves up the 600 meter hike. Yes, that is not a lot! I recommend taking the paved routed number 1 up the mountain to make sure you don’t miss Takuoin and then take either the Biwa path (hike 6) down along a small river or the ridge line Inariyama Trail along beautiful narrow dirt and rocky paths. Round trip the hike won’t take longer than 3 hours.

tengu statues on mt takaosan in tokyo Japan

Come to Takao...Come to Takao...

Don’t forget to pack a small lunch to eat at the top. Like most hikes in Japan there are vending machines at the top so treat yourself to the view with nice local beer and admire the views out to Mt. Fuji. And no, you don’t get a picture of Mt. Fuji! I have to leave something for you to discover on your own.

Blog for Japan help Japan recover from the tsunamiThis post is part of the continuing Blog4Japan campaign to raise awareness for the need for donations to local organizations helping the survivors. If you would like to help please consider donating to this list of local Japanese organizations that are on the ground working right now.

Do you have  good day hike inside of Tokyo? Let us know below. Who am I kidding, if you have ANYTHING to say leave it below :)

adventure driving

Nothing like an open side to help you feel the road

Update:

The winner is Leng…who guessed, Bangkok, Thailand! Personally, I wanted more street guesses!

Thanks again to Kelsi for this great shot and making us all dream we were in Thailand right now. Here is why this place is so special to her:

This place is special to me personally because it is the capital city of the country where I serve as a Peace Corps volunteer and it is a place I can meet up with my friends. I love this picture because it reminds me of the rush of soaring through the streets of Bangkok with the open night air against my face.

Leng gets the prize this week. So check out Globe Nomads, and follow his journey around the world.

Welcome to the weekly Where in the World? Travel Photo Contest! We have a great list of travel photos and bloggers lined up to challenge your world travel knowledge each and every Friday.

If you’re new or never bothered to actually read what I write, each week I post a beautiful picture (at least I think so) either from a featured travel blog guest (see below for details on how to guest post) or from my own travels and you guess where it is. Due to the popularity of featuring other travel bloggers I plan to host other peoples’ travels and photos for as long as there is interest (get in touch!).

This week’s photo comes from Kelsi and her beautiful notes on life’s journey over at Some Sojourns.

The first person to guess where this picture was taken (Country, City, and Road (no just joking)!) will win a link back to their blog and all the fame and glory associated! Congratulations to David who won last weeks contest by knowing the oldest and deepest Lake Baikal in Russia.

Leave your guess and recent post in the comment section below (comment luv should take care of the second part).

Yes, the prizes heavily favor the blogging and travel geeks amongst us. If you don’t have a website, then leave your favorite website or better yet a charity that deserves attention. Good luck!

Guesses aside, all comments and stories (don’t forget the praise) are welcome!

Let’s invite as many people as possible! Please consider tweeting or sharing on Facebook

Be a Guest Photographer

If you’re looking to help increase the visibility of your blog, drive more traffic, or just share your pretty pictures then why not be a guest photographer for Photo Contest Friday on Todd’s Wanderings! This is no longer as new feature as we have had 5 weeks of guest posters and have the next 3 weeks filled already!

If you’re interested in having your photograph featured then send me an e-mail through my Todd’s Wanderings Contact Page with the Subject line: Photo Contest Friday. Don’t forget to tell me which site your coming from and I’ll be in touch and explain how to send the photo. Keep in mind that your photo should be awesome!

The photograph should be your own and should have a few small clues in the photo to help the reader out if they’ve never been there (no, I don’t follow this last rule myself all the time…but it’s my website). I’ll link to your page and talk you up as the guest poster. I can be very flattering when I want to be.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. You should be an independent travel blogger. I love helping the little guy…or gal.

Blog for Japan help Japan recover from the tsunamiThis post is part of the Blog4Japan campaign helping to raise donations for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. Please share it and considering donating to one of the worthy local Japanese organizations responding to the disaster.

This year will mark a different type of cherry blossom season. Usually each year as these transient beauties reveal themselves to the country the Japanese gather together with friends, family, and coworkers and party under the blossoms in a custom called hanami. It is by far my favorite activity in Japan, eating delicious food and drinking into the wee hours of the night celebrating life and beauty that we all know will fade shortly after. In fact it’s the short time period that makes us appreciate the beauty all the more.

In the wake of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami the cherry blossom parties will be understandably subdued. But I also think that they cheery blossoms offer us a time to reflect on life, the tsunami and what is important to us and how we can help. As the cherry blossoms are just opening around the country here are my favorite viewing places in Tokyo and Kyoto. If you are nearby I urge you to go and still celebrate life and beauty. If your planning to take a trip to Japan, I urge you to keep to your schedule and see for yourself all the beauty Japan has to offer.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

Walking through the Cherry Blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo Japan

Ueno Park during cherry blossom season

There are three main areas of Tokyo that I’d recommend viewing the cherry blossoms. The first is Ueno Park, perhaps Tokyo’s most well known cherry blossom destination and thus the most crowded. If you are looking to avoid the crowds this is certainly not the place to be. But if you want it lively, and filled with music, families and temples within walking distance than Ueno is the place to be.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Shinjuku Japan

Shinjuku Gyoen

Our next stop is Shinjuku Gyoen (park) where the vast variety of cherry trees helps to ensure blossoms opening throughout the season. The large open areas ensure spots for those wanting to picnic. However, there are not that may spaces underneath the trees themselves. One tree not to miss is the beautiful weeping cherry tree, Yaebeni Shidarezakura.

Our last top is the Sumida Park which is a nice cherry tree lined walkway along the Sumida River in Asakusa, home to famous Senso-ji Temple. This is a nice relaxing area where you can stroll under the cherry blossoms. It is less crowded than Ueno but still has a nice historical feel to it. Across the river is the Asahi Beer company with its curious golden monument on top of the building. You can also see the ongoing construction to Tokyo’s latest and tallest broadcasting, restaurant and viewing tower the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Kyoto

It is hard to improve on the beauty and elegance of Kyoto. But when the cheery blossoms appear in the Spring and when the leaves change in the Fall the city comes alive even further wrapped in natural colors that only accentuate the traditional buildings and quietly manicured gardens. Kyoto is full of cherry trees but here are some of my favorite areas.

Cherry blossom viewing in Maruyama park Kyoto

Old Cherry Tree in Maruyama Park

No cherry blossom experience is complete in Kyoto without a visit to Maruyama Park, and its stately old weeping cherry tree that is lit up at night. This is a popular place so if you are planning on having an evening party here you best stake out a spot early in the morning. Companies usually send their junior employees to claim their spot early. Sitting in the park all days sounds like a nice day of work! You can access the area through Yasaka Shrine, which sits at the eastern end of Shijo-dori in the Gion District.

If you are looking to contemplate life during a stroll than the Philosophers Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi) should be your next stop on your cherry blossom viewing odyssey. This cherry tree lined stone path in the northern section of Higashiyama area is quiet and is a good place to beat the crowds. However, space for picnicking is limited so it’s best for a stroll or to incorporate as part of your walking tour through the area.

Cherry blossom viewing along the philosophers path in Kyoto

Get your inner philosopher a kick start with a little beauty to contemplate

Finally, get a bird’s eye view of the city and the forest of cherry blossom trees surrounding Kiyomizu Temple. Besides the temple being one of Kyoto’s most beautiful and most famous, it has an incredible wooden deck that trusts outs into a sea of blossoms. This spot will be one of your photographic highlights so make sure you head later in the day when you have nice soft light.

Have you been on a hanmi? Where else would you recommend for viewing the cherry blossoms?

Photo Credits 1, 2, 3, 4

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