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Seoul

Population:10,323,448
Time Zone:UTC+9
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National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts
The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts is a national music agency that has been established to transmit and develop traditional music and dance. It is conducting various activities related to gukak performances and gukak itself.
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Seoul Museum of History
The Seoul Museum of History is the only museum in Korea that represents the city’s history and culture. Since its establishment on the former site of Gyeonghuigung Palace in 2002, the museum has offered visitors the chance to experience 600 years of Seoul’s history and culture through interactive exhibitions. The three-story museum is divided thematically into three exhibition areas, including a special exhibition area, a permanent exhibition area and a hall that exhibits collections donated by the public. The museum offers accessible and interactive exhibitions to the public with various hands-on programs. For example, visitors are allowed to touch and explore the exhibits on display, which are replicas of originals in the museum. In addition, the museum offers the U-Exhibit Guidance System, an automatic translator (various languages are available) for visitors, which makes every tour convenient and interesting.
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Gyeongbokgung Palace
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also commonly referred to as the Northern Palace because its location is furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeonghuigung (Western Palace) Palace. Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful, and remains the largest of all five palaces.
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Dream Forest
Dream Forest is the fourth largest park in Seoul, after the World Cup Park, Olympic Park and Seoul Forest, and has become a part of the lives of 2.67million residents of six districts, Gangbuk, Seongbuk, Dobong, Nowon, Dongdaemun and Jungnang. In the heart of the forest is a large lake named Wallyoungji, with the 7 m-high Wallgwang Waterfall and the pavilion Aewalljeong, not to mention grasslands twice the size of the Seoul Plaza. Situated on the rim of Wallyoungji stands the traditional Korean hanok building, Changnyeonggungjaesa (No. 40 Registered Cultural Property), in its entire classical splendor. The 49.7 m Observatory overlooking downtown Seoul is a special attraction point. The breathtaking ridges of Bukhansan(Mt.), Dobongsan(Mt.) and Suraksan(Mt.) roll out to the north, and Mt. Nam and the River Han majestically fill the scenery to the south. Five different wild flower gardens have been created behind the parking lot, such as Suro Garden, Sagaewon, Brown Garden and Hwamokwon, and the Chilpokchi, a waterfall with seven streams, is also worth experiencing.
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Matsumoto Seicho Memorial Museum
Matsumoto Seicho Memorial Museum, a memorial to the world-famous writer and his great achievements. For these reasons, this area is known as the cultural area of Kitakyushu.
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Kokura Castle
Since the Edo era, Kokura has flourished as a castle town. Kokura Castle, the symbol of the town, was founded by Tadaoki Hosokawa in 1602. The only castle remaining in Fukuoka Prefecture, it attracts many tourists.
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Rakan-ji Temple
Rakanji Temple (羅漢寺) is one of the 3 largest Gohyakurakan (五百羅漢) in Japan. It is said that Rakanji Temple began with the religious training of the Hodo mountain hermits in year 645.
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Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima Castle (広島城, Hiroshimajō), also called the Carp Castle, is a good example of a castle built on a plain in the center of a city as opposed to hilltop and mountaintop castles. Its main keep is five stories tall, and its grounds are surrounded by a moat. Also within the castle's precincts are a shrine, some ruins and a few reconstructed buildings of the Ninomaru (second circle of defence). Hiroshima developed as a castle town, whereby the castle was both the physical and economical center of the city. Built in 1589 by the powerful feudal lord Mori Terumoto, Hiroshima Castle was an important seat of power in Western Japan. While it was spared the demolishment that many other castles met during the Meiji Restoration, like the rest of the city, Hiroshima Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.
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Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park (平和記念公園, Heiwa Kinen Kōen) is one of the most prominent features of the city. Even visitors not looking for it will likely stumble upon the large park of over 120,000 square meters. Its trees, lawns, and walking paths are in stark contrast to the surrounding downtown area. Before the bomb, the area of what is now the Peace Park was the political and commercial heart of the city. For this reason, it was chosen as the pilot's target. Four years to the day after the bomb was dropped, it was decided that the area would not be redeveloped but instead devoted to peace memorial facilities.
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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
The museum continues to spearhead the global movement towards nuclear disarmament and lasting world peace. The museum is divided into the East Building and the Main Building. In the museum, the history of Hiroshima before and after the bombing is exhibited with pictures, movies and displays. Also, there are some items that convey the devastation caused by the atomic bomb. In spring, the Peace Park is covered with cherry blossoms.
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Shukkeien Garden
Shukkeien's (縮景園) name can be translated into English as "shrunken-scenery garden", which is also a good description of the garden itself. Valleys, mountains, and forests are represented in miniature in the garden's landscapes. Through careful cultivation of the land and vegetation, the garden mimics a variety of natural formations and scenic views. Shukkeien has a long history dating back to 1620, just after the completion of Hiroshima Castle. The garden displays many features of the traditional aesthetics of Japanese gardens. Around the garden's main pond there are a number of tea houses which offer visitors ideal views of the surrounding scenery. The entire garden is connected by a path which winds around the pond at the center of the garden. The path passes through all of Shukkeien's various miniaturized sceneries. Following this path around the garden is the best way to enjoy Shukkeien.
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Mazda Museum
The Mazda Motor Corporation, founded in Hiroshima in 1920, still retains its corporate headquarters in the city of its origins. In addition to the headquarters, Mazda owns a large plot of coastal land which accommodates research and development laboratories, factories, and shipping facilities. The company museum and part of a factory are made available for public viewing. Like Toyota to Nagoya, Mazda plays a large role in Hiroshima's economy. Although Mazda is not as large as Toyota, it still produces over a million cars a year and is an innovative player in the Japanese auto industry. For instance, in 1991 Mazda became the first and only Japanese company to win the Le Mans Grand Prix. Continuing efforts to create more efficient vehicles include improving its version of rotary engines.
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Bijia Mountain
The Bijia Mountain is a small land-tied island located in the Liaodong Bay, adjacent to the Jinzhou Port. Measuring 1.5 kilometer in length and 0.8 kilometer in width, the island covers an area of about one square kilometer, at an altitude of 78 meters.
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Takasakiyama Monkey Park
Takasakiyama Monkey Park (高崎山自然動物園, Takasakiyama Shizen Dōbutsuen) is a popular monkey reserve at the base of Mount Takasaki, a 628 meter high mountain along the coast between Beppu and Oita City. The mountain is home to some 1500 wild Japanese macaques that roam freely around its steep, forested slopes. Park visitors can get close to the monkeys as they are fed, and watch them as they run around, play or just sit in the sun and groom each other. Mount Takasaki's monkeys are divided into two separate troops of approximately 700 to 800 individuals each, making them some of the world's largest monkey troops. The troops take turns coming down to the monkey park, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During their stay at the park, the monkeys get fed by the wardens and spend their time playing and resting while appearing almost oblivious to the human visitors. However, although they seem tame, the monkeys should not be touched or fed, and eye contact should be avoided.
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Mt. Takasaki Wild Monkey Park
Mt. Takasaki Wild Monkey Park (高崎山自然動物園) is located in the west of the city, 20 min. by bus from JR Oita Sta. The area is the famous habitat of about 1,368 wild Japanese monkeys (as of January 2013) who live in a forest on the steep slope of Mt. Takasaki at a height of 628 m.
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Oita Prefectural Art Museum
The Oita Prefectural Art Museum is located on Japan’s island of Kyushu. The modern and contemporary Japanese art collection is impressive; however, the biggest highlight of the museum is its elaborate modern architecture designed by noted architect Shigeru Ban.
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Hiruzen-kogen Heights
Located on a gently sloping plateau, Hiruzen-kogen Heights is Japan’s leading resort area. The area is famous as the largest breeding zone for Jersey cows in Japan. Whether to take in the fresh greenery of spring or the fall foliage in autumn, the Hiruzen-kogen Heights Cycling Path is a popular cycling destination, and with hiking and camping in summer and playing in the snow in winter, the area offers visitors the chance to experience the richness of nature in any season. Visitors are also encouraged to try local gourmet offerings such as “Hiruzen Yakisoba” (noodles stir-fried in a miso-based sauce), “Genghis Khan” (a grilled mutton dish), and soft-serve ice cream and cheese made from the milk of the area’s Jersey cows.
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Kosanji Temple
Kosan Wajo of Kosanji Temple became a Buddhist priest after the death of his mother, and the temple belonging to the Honganji sect of the Jodo Shinshu sect was built as a memorial to her. Various pagodas that had been built over more than 30 years since 1936 were reproduced with representative styles and methods of Buddhist architecture from the Asuka to Edo Periods. The Koyo no Mon gate that took 10 years to build and is a reproduction of the Yomei Gate in Nikko, excellent art works exhibited in the new treasure hall, and the approximately 50,000 square meter location with its seasonal beauty reminds you of heaven. The temple is also famous for cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.
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Bitchu Matsuyama Castle
Built in 1240, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is both an Important Cultural Property of Japan and is counted among Japan’s top 100 castles. The castle is located atop a mountain at an altitude of 430 m, making it the highest fortress with an existing castle tower in Japan. Visitors to the castle are treated to a spectacular sight, especially in the early mornings of fall and winter when the clouds spread out to form a “sea of clouds” around the castle. Also in fall, when the trees change color, the landscape becomes painted in a deep vermilion as if the castle walls were aflame, offering visitors a truly majestic sight.
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Okutsu Onsen
With its riverside rotenburo (outdoor bath), Okutsu Onsen features numerous elegant inns and accommodations. Because soaking in the hot spring’s waters is said to make one’s skin white and smooth, this onsen is famously known as “Bijin no Yu” (Onsen of Beauty). “Ashibumi Sentaku,” also known as the “Washing Dance,” is performed by women in kimonos holding pails while stamping on garments and making washing motions with their toes. This “dance,” a noted attraction at Okutsu Onsen, is performed in the rotenburo on Sundays and public holidays from late March to early December. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the “Ashibumi Sentaku” at no charge as well as the area’s beautiful seasonal landscapes including fall foliage in autumn and snowfall in winter.
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Iyama Hofuku-ji Temple
Iyama Hofuku-ji Temple was built in 1232 as a Zen temple. The temple is famous as the childhood training grounds for the painter Sesshu—the most prominent Japanese master of ink wash painting, which employs shading from a single-color inkstick. A popular attraction at the temple is the Buddhist practice of zazen, where worshippers sit in meditation for spiritual unity. Visitors can join early morning zazen sessions on the second Sunday of every month with no reservations required, and tea and sweets provided after the meditation offer a chance to experience the hospitality of Japanese culture. The temple’s fresh green of spring and vibrant foliage in autumn also make for beautiful sights.
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Tsuyama Castle
Kakuzan Park is on the ruins of an ancient castle, Tsuyama Castle, which was built about 400 years ago. The castle’s approximately 10 m tall stone wall remains today, greeting visitors with a majestic view of overlapping stones even from a distance. The ruin has been selected as one of Japan’s top 100 castles and has earned a spot as one of Japan’s top 100 cherry blossom sites. The Tsuyama Cherry Blossom Festival held every year in early to mid April gives visitors the chance to experience the park’s 1,000 or so cherry trees. After sunset, looking down from atop the stone wall at the cherry trees illuminated below, visitors will be treated to an unimaginably beautiful view.
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Ohara Museum of Art
The symbol of the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, this private museum features Western works of art in an eye-catching building styled after a Greek temple. Based on Ohara Magosaburo’s collection of Western art, Ohara Museum of Art features a large collection of world-famous paintings and work such as one of El Greco’s “Annunciation” and Monet’s “Water Lilies.” The museum also features a pond with water lilies propagated from Monet’s residence.
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Kibi Plain
The Kibi Plain is a charming, rural flatland just outside of central Okayama City that is covered in sprawling fields and dotted with shrines, temples and small clusters of farmhouses. The plain is best explored from an attractive cycling trail which visits several historic sights along the way.
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Korakuen Garden
This quintessential Japanese garden was created roughly 300 years ago by the area’s daimyo (domain lord). A symbol of the power of the samurai, Okayama Korakuen Garden is considered one of the three great gardens of Japan alongside Kanazawa City’s Kenroku-en and Mito City’s Kairakuen.
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Okayama Castle
Completed in 1597 after eight years of construction, Okayama Castle is one of Japan’s top 100 castles. After the keep was destroyed in the war, the castle was rebuilt in 1966. Also known as “U-jo (Crow Castle)” for its crow-like black outer wall, Okayama Castle is a popular counterpart to the white outer walls of Himeji Castle.
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Saidaiji Kannon-in Temple
The ancient temple of Saidaiji Kannon-in was built around 1,200 years ago. Walking along the approach, visitors will pass by rows of traditional shops before entering the shrine’s gate and arriving at the main hall.
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Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum
Located in Osafune, a town that once flourished as a major produce of Japanese swords, the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum is one of a limited number of sword museums and features a variety of Japanese swords on display. Visitors can learn about the history and manufacturing process for Japanese swords as well as experience the beauty and power of the swords up close. The museum features several special exhibitions throughout the year that combine animations and video games, making this a popular destination for sword fans from across the country. In the adjacent workshop, visitors can see the skill of Japanese sword artisans, including the process where tamahagane, steel made from iron sand, is heated to 1300°C and then hammered to make a plate.
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Senganen Garden
Senganen Garden (仙巌園), also known as Isoteien (磯庭園), is a Japanese style landscaped garden along the coast north of downtown Kagoshima. One of the garden's most striking features is its use of Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay as borrowed scenery. The garden also includes small ponds, streams, shrines and a bamboo grove. Senganen was constructed in 1658 by the wealthy Shimazu Clan, one of the most powerful feudal clans during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The Shimazu ruled the Satsuma domain (present-day Kagoshima) for almost 700 years until the end of the feudal age in 1868. They continued to be influential into the modern era as some of the earliest adopters of Western science and technology. At the centre of the garden stands the Iso Residence. The residence was originally built in 1658 along with the rest of the garden, but the current building mostly dates back to a mid-1880s reconstruction. After the end of the feudal age, the Iso Residence became the main residence of the Shimazu family, and its rooms are preserved in the way they were used in the 1890s.
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Shiroyama Park
Shiroyama Park (城山公園, Shiroyama Kōen) is a park in downtown Kagoshima that extends over Mount Shiroyama. With an elevation of 107 meters, the mountain formerly served as the site of a castle fortification, which led to its name. Shiroyama literally means "castle mountain" in Japanese. The castle's former grounds at the base of the mountain now serve as the site of the Reimeikan Museum. The park is most famous for its Shiroyama Observatory with spectacular views over downtown Kagoshima, Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima. The night view is also nice, particularly if a clear sky and bright moon allow Sakurajima to remain visible. Nice views can also be enjoyed from the Satsuma no Yu outdoor hot spring bath at the nearby Castle Park Hotel, which is also open to non-staying guests.
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Reimeikan Museum
The Reimeikan Museum (黎明館) is dedicated to local history and culture. On three spacious floors, it presents a wide variety of exhibits that cover the span of Kagoshima's history from ancient to modern times. There are a few interesting models, such as a large diorama of downtown Kagoshima at the beginning of the Showa Period (1926-1989) and a small scale model of a village from the middle ages. The museum was built on the former site of the local castle, known as Kagoshima or Tsurumaru Castle, and is surrounded by parts of the former moat and stone walls. The museum and castle ruins are located at the base of Mount Shiroyama, which literally means "castle mountain" in Japanese.
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Kagoshima City Aquarium
Visitors to the aquarium are immediately drawn into the experience by stepping in front of the massive floor to ceiling Kuroshio Great Water Tank right after they enter. This approximately 1,360,000 liter tank focuses on the Kuroshio current; the current that runs off of Japan's eastern coast and is essential for supporting a wide variety of marine life. A large whale shark, graceful manta rays, and shiny tuna all glide right in front of your face. As you exit the large tank room, you walk right under these magnificent creatures, as the tank curves over your head. Kagoshima City takes particular pride in its marine life and the aquarium features many species that are indigenous to the local area. Those familiar with the southern port towns such as Makurazaki will recognize the shiny tuna (katsuo) in the huge 1st-floor tank, for example. Perhaps the most intriguing residents are the taka-ashi (lit. tall leg) crabs, whose leg spans can reach nearly 4 meters! These somewhat fierce-looking, yet serene animals are prevalent in the warmer waters between Kagoshima Bay and Tokyo Bay. Jellyfish, eel and squid are other creatures you can learn about through exhibits that are translated into English.
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Kagoshima Christmas Market
After stumbling across the Christmas Market at Hakata Station, I discovered that Kyushu was actually holding many Christmas Markets across different JR Station locations. Kagoshima-chuo station happened to be another of those market locations, and despite being a lot smaller in size than the Hakata one, this market still had beautiful lights and some lovely stalls.
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Sakurajima
Sakurajima (桜島) is one of Japan's most active volcanoes and the symbol of Kagoshima. The volcano smokes constantly, and minor eruptions often take place multiple times per day. Located in the middle of Kagoshima Bay, Sakurajima is the area's most prominent geographic feature, having an elevation of 1117 meters and a circumference of about 50 kilometres. Before a powerful eruption in 1914, Sakurajima used to be an island in the bay, but the massive lava flow from that eruption created the volcano's current land connection to the Osumi Peninsula in the east. For the majority of travellers, however, the volcano is still most easily accessed by the ferries that run the 3.5 kilometres between Kagoshima Port and the Sakurajima Ferry Terminal.
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Ine Town
Ine (伊根) is a town located around the Ine Bay in northern Kyoto Prefecture, about 15 kilometers north of Amanohashidate. This working town has a long and rich history as a fishing village and is regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in Japan. The unique aspect of Ine are its funaya. Literally meaning "boat houses", these traditional waterfront buildings contain garages for boats on their first floors and residential space on the upper floors. Today there over 200 funaya remaining along the bay. Some of them now serve as guest houses where visitors can stay the night and experience the funaya first-hand. The town itself is a normal town inhabited by working people, and most houses are personal residences. There are only a small number of shops and restaurants, meaning that there is not an incredible amount to do here. The largest concentration of amenities are found at Funaya no Sato Park, a roadside station on a hill above the town with large parking lots, a tourist information office, an observation deck, restaurants and shops.
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Mino Park
Minoo Park (箕面公園, Minō Kōen, also spelt Mino or Minoh) is a forested valley on the outskirts of Osaka, just north of the urban sprawl. During the fall, it is one of the best places in the Kansai Region to see the autumn colours in a natural setting, as opposed to the attractive fall foliage found at temples and gardens. The colours are usually best in the second half of November. Similar to Tokyo's Mount Takao, Minoo Park is the closest spot to the busy metropolis of Osaka to find a spacious natural recreation area. The park can be reached in less than 30 minutes from the downtown Umeda area. Another similarity, Takao and Minoo were both given quasi-national park status in 1967 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Meiji Period (1867-1912).
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Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan (USJ) was the first theme park under the Universal Studios brand to be built in Asia. Opened in March 2001 in the Osaka Bay Area, the theme park occupies an area of 39 hectares and is the most visited amusement park in Japan after Tokyo Disney Resort. Universal Studios Japan currently has eight sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Universal Wonderland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Visitors are able to enjoy many amusement rides, ranging from child-friendly carousels to thrilling roller coasters and simulators based on popular movies such as Spiderman, Back to the Future, Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park.