Monday, May 31, 2010

SWITZERLAND - Bellinzona



Bellinzona is the capital city of the canton Ticino in italian part of Switzerland. The city is famous for its three castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro) and fortified walls that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000.

The Castelgrande is located on a rocky peak overlooking the valley, with a series of fortified walls that protect the old city and connect to the Montebello. The third castle (Sasso Corbaro) is located on an isolated rocky promontory south-east of the other two.

UNESCO World Heritage Site :

Date of inscription : 2000

The Bellinzona site consists of a group of fortifications grouped around the castle of Castelgrande, which stands on a rocky peak looking out over the entire Ticino valley. Running from the castle, a series of fortified walls protect the ancient town and block the passage through the valley. A second castle (Montebello) forms an integral part of the fortifications, while a third but separate castle (Sasso Corbaro) was built on an isolated rocky promontory south-east of the other fortifications.


Postcard sent by Pam, as "pami1977"
Private swap - Reference CH005

Bellinzona - Two of the three classified castles :
Castelgrande and Montebello (down & left)

Danke / Merci

ITALY - Country profile




The flag of Italy (bandiera d'Italia, often referred to in Italian as Il Tricolore) is a tricolour featuring three equally sized vertical pales of green, white and red, with the green at the hoist side. In its current form it has been in use since 19 June 1946 and was formally adopted on 1 January 1948.

The first entity to use the Italian tricolour was the Repubblica Cispadana (Cispadane Republic) in 1797, after Napoleon's victorious army crossed Italy. During this time many small republics of Jacobin inspiration supplanted the ancient absolute states and almost all, with variants of colour, used flags characterised by three bands of equal size, clearly inspired by the French model of 1790. The colours chosen by the Republic were red and white, the colours of the flag of Milan and green, which was the colour of the uniform of the Milanese civic guard.

Some have attributed particular values to the colours and a common interpretation is that the green represents the country's plains and the hills, white, the snow-capped Alps and red, blood spilt in the Wars of Italian Independence. A more religious interpretation is that the green represents hope, the white represents faith and the red represents charity ; this references the three theological virtues.


Il Canto degli Italiani (The Chant of the Italians) is the Italian national anthem. It is best known among Italians as L'Inno di Mameli (Mameli's Hymn) and often referred to as Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), from its opening line.

The words were written in the autumn of 1847 in Genoa, by the then 20-year-old student and patriot Goffredo Mameli, in a climate of popular struggle for unification and independence of Italy which foreshadowed the war against Austria.

Two months later, they were set to music in Turin by another Genoese, Michele Novaro. The hymn enjoyed widespread popularity throughout the period of the Risorgimento and in the following decades.

After unification (1861) the adopted national anthem was the Marcia Reale, the Royal March (or Fanfara Reale), official hymn of the royal house of Savoy composed in 1831 to order of Carlo Alberto di Savoia. The Marcia Reale remained the Italian national anthem until the birth of the republic.

Giuseppe Verdi, in his Inno delle Nazioni (Hymn of the Nations), composed for the London International Exhibition of 1862, chose Il Canto degli Italiani – and not the Marcia Reale – to represent Italy, putting it beside God Save the Queen and the Marseillaise.

In 1946 Italy became a republic, and on October 12, 1946, Il Canto degli Italiani was provisionally chosen as the country's new national anthem. This choice was made official in law only on November 17, 2005, almost 60 years later.


Official Name:
Repubblica Italiana
short form: Italia
int'l long form: Italian Republic
int'l short form: Italy
former: Kingdom of Italy

ISO Country Code: it

Capital City: Rome (pop. 2.8 million)

Type: Republic since 2 June 1946.
Constitution: 1 January 1948.

Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea.
Area: 301 225 sq. km. (116 303 sq. mi.);
Terrain: Mostly rugged and mountainous.

Climate: Generally mild mediterranean; cold winters in the north.

Nationality: Italian(s).
Population: 57.5 million.
Ethnic groups: Primarily Italian, but there are small groups of German-, French-, Slovene-, and Albanian-Italians.
Religion: Roman Catholic (majority).
Language: Italian.
Literacy: 98%.

Natural resources: Mercury, potash, marble, sulfur, natural gas and crude oil reserves, fish, coal, arable land.
Agriculture products: Fruits, vegetables, grapes, potatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, grain, olives; beef, dairy products; fish.
Industries: Tourism, machinery, iron and steel, chemicals, food processing, textiles, motor vehicles, clothing, footwear, ceramics.

Exports partners: Germany 13.8%, France 12.3%, USA 8.5%, Spain 7%, UK 6.9% (2003)

Imports partners: Germany 17.9%, France 11.2%, Netherlands 5.8%, Spain 4.8%, UK 4.7%, Belgium 4.3%, USA 4% (2003)

Currency: Euro (EUR) has replaced the formerly used Italian Lira.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

HUNGARY - National Park Hortobagy, the Puszta

Location of National Park Hortobagy in HUNGARY

Hortobágy is the largest protected area, and the largest natural grassland in Central Europe with cattle, sheep, oxen, horses, tended by herdsmen, and it provides habitat for various different species (342 bird species have been registered to appear in the puszta). This is an 800 km² national park in Eastern Hungary, in the puszta, rich with folklore and cultural history. The park, a part of the Alföld - puszta (Great Plain), was designated as a national park in 1973 (the first in Hungary), and elected among the World Heritage sites in 1999.

The Hortobágy National Park - The Puszta has been inscribed on the World Heritage
List by UNESCO on the 1st of December in 1999 in the category of cultural landscapes, based on cultural criteria iv and v. According to its brief description "the Hortobágy is a vast area of plains and wetlands that have been used by humans for grazing their domestic animals for more than two millennia.

The regular flooding of the Tisza provided local farmers with fertile pastures for their herds and allowed for Hungarian Grey Cattle to be exported to Western-Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Important trade roads were established for this activity. These roads later became known as the "salt-roads" on which salt was transported from the salt mines of Transylvania. Wayside inns called "csárda" along main roads were built at the end of the 17th century in the puszta and at least forty of them were still in existence within the last century. However, only about 5 of these inns currently exist. In the years of large-scale flooding, bridges offered the only means of crossing the land.

The Nine-Arch bridge was built for that purpose. Damming of the Tisza river started in 1846 at Tiszadob. The channelized, regulated river, robbed of its meandering tributaries, was not able to flood the nearby land with its fertile sediment, resulting in the disappearance of marshes and loss of irrigation to the Hortobágy. The regulation of the watercourse, along with changes in precipitation and temperature, lead to the extension of alkaline soil. Efforts to restore fertility to the area started in the fifties. Artificial channels were created all over and industrialised, agriculture was forced upon the Hortobágy. The "puszta", with its domestic animals, pastures, waters, flora, fauna, shepherding, fishing and peasant life-style became an obsolete remnant of the past and its extinction was just a matter of time.

UNESCO World Heritage Site :

Date of inscription : 1999

The cultural landscape of the Hortobágy Puszta consists of a vast area of plains and wetlands in eastern Hungary. Traditional forms of land use, such as the grazing of domestic animals, have been present in this pastoral society for more than two millennia.


Postcard sent by Eszter, as "serae"
Private swap - Reference HU004

National Park Hortobagy, the Puszta


MEXICO - La Guelaguetza in Oaxaca

MEXICO stamp

Location of OAXACA in MEXICO

The Guelaguetza, or Los lunes del cerro (Mondays of the Hill) is an annual cultural celebration that is most well known outside the state of Oaxaca and outside Mexico as taking place in the city of Oaxaca, capital of the state of Oaxaca in Mexico. In fact the celebration also takes place in town centers all over the state of Oaxaca at about the same time. The celebration involves parades complete with walking bands and the marketing of food, statewide artisanal production, and souvenirs, but centers on dancing in costume in groups, often groups of only one sex. Each costume and dance usually has a local historical and cultural meaning. Although the celebration is an important tourist attraction, especially in the capital city of Oaxaca, it also retains significant independent cultural importance for the people of the state.

Oaxaca has a large indigenous population, 40 percent, compared to 15 percent for Mexico as a whole. Indigenous culture in the state remains strong in its own right, with over 300,000 people in the state who are monolingual in indigenous languages. Unlike the Yucatán, where the indigenous culture consists of closely related groups of Mayans, the indigenous people in Oaxaca are from many different cultures speaking mutually unintelligible languages. The celebration dates back to pre-Columbian times and remains a defining characteristic of Oaxacan culture. Its origins come from celebrations related to the worship of corn. Communities from within the state of Oaxaca gather to present their regional culture in the form of music, costumes, dances, and food. It is the most famous event of its kind in Mexico.

Like many pre-Columbian traditions in Mexico, this festival was adapted to Catholic traditions after the conquest. The sacrifice of a virgin slave girl was eliminated, and the Guelaguetza became a celebration in honor of the Virgin del Carmen. After a terrible earthquake in the 1920s that destroyed most of the city, the festival was re-organized as a statewide cultural event to rebuild the morale of the people. It began to take on a more modern form as a display of each region's unique dance, and became more of a show than a spontaneous festival. In the 1970s a stadium dedicated to the festival was built on a prominent place on Fortin Hill in the center of the city. Foreign and national tourism became increasingly popular when Oaxaca became a UNESCO world heritage city in 1987 and when a modern limited access highway was built into the city in November 1994. Before the highway, transportation was so slow that it was virtually impossible to go to Oaxaca from Mexico City for a weekend trip.

The celebration takes place on consecutive Mondays at the end of July in towns around the state and in the capital city's open-air amphitheater built into the "Cerro del Fortín", a hill that overlooks central Oaxaca. The word Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec language and means "reciprocal exchanges of gifts and services".


Postcard sent by Julia , as "JulesRules"
Private swap - Reference MX004

Le Guelaguetza

Del 1 al 24 de Julio, la ciudad de Oaxaca se viste de gala
con danzas, bailes, musica y un gran colorido

From 1st to 24th of July,
the festivities take place every year in the city
of Oaxaca with beautiful dances, music and folkloric activities.

Muchas gracias

SLOVENIA - Šentviška planota


Location of Šentviška planota in SLOVENIA

Šentviška planota is a broad and extensive plateau formed in the shape of a triangle between Baška grapa, the Idrijca Valley and Cerkljansko. Difficult access to the plateau has made possible a more tranquil life than the one on the busy crossroads in the valley below.

Šentviška planota offers a variety of ethnological monuments, examples of folk architecture, and frescoes. The Church of Saint Mary in Ponikve is a masterpiece of architect Jožef Plečnik, who succeeded in combining elements of the former church, which was burnt down during the war, with contemporary solutions, realising an exhilarating new structure.

On the outskirts of Šentviška planota one may explore some attractive karst caves. Visitors will also enjoy the picturesque gorge of the Kostanjevec brook, while the most well known sight is the periodic lake in the middle of the village of Ponikve.


Crocus vernus (Spring crocus, Giant Dutch crocus) is a plant of the Crocus genus in the Iridaceae family. Its cultivars and that of Crocus flavus (Dutch crocusses) are used as ornamental plants. The Dutch crocusses are larger than the other cultivated species (snow crocuses), and tend to bloom two weeks later. Height : 4-6" (10 - 15 cm).


Postcard sent by Lea, as "ael"
Private swap - Reference SI001

Šentviška planota and two Crocus Vernus


SLOVENIA - Country profile




The national flag of Slovenia features three equal horizontal bands of white (top), blue, and red, with the Slovenian coat of arms located in the upper hoist side of the flag centered in the white and blue bands. The coat of arms is a shield with the image of Mount Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak, in white against a blue background at the centre; beneath it are two wavy blue lines representing the Adriatic Sea and local rivers, and above it are three six-pointed golden stars arranged in an inverted triangle which are taken from the coat of arms of the Counts of Celje, the great Slovenian dynastic house of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

The flag's colours are considered to be Pan-Slavic, but they actually come from the medieval coat of arms of the Duchy of Carniola, consisting of a blue eagle on a white background with a red-and-gold crescent. The colors of the flag were considered national colours before they were first arranged on a flag during the rise of nationalism in Europe. The existing tricolour was created during the Spring of Nations in 1848, when a group of students from Ljubljana took the colours from the Carniolan coat of arms, arranging them in such a way that it resembled the Russian national flag.

The civil and state ensign for ships has the same design as the national flag, but a different shape (2:3 instead of 1:2).


Zdravljica (A Toast) or Zdravica, written in 1844, is the best-known poem of the Slovenian national poet France Prešeren. Since 27 September 1989, its 7th stanza has been the national anthem of Slovenia.

Zdravljica is a drinking song. In it, the poet declares his belief in a free-thinking Slovene and Slavic political awareness, promoting the idea of a unified Slovenia, which the March Revolution in 1848 elevated into a national political programme.


Official Name:
Republika Slovenija
short form: Slovenija
int'l short form: Slovenia
int'l long form: Republic of Slovenia

ISO Country Code: si

Capital City: Ljubljana (pop. 267 000)

Other Cities:
Maribor (110 668), Kranj (51 225), Celje (48 081), Koper (47 539).

Type: Parliamentary democratic republic.
Independence: 25 June 1991, Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia.
Constitution: 23 December 1991.

Location: Central Europe, eastern Alps bordering the Adriatic Sea, between Austria and Croatia.
Area: 20 273 square kilometers (7 906 sq. mi.).
Terrain: Alps mountains rising to more than 2 800 meters (8 200 ft.) in the north, wide plateaus over 1000 meters (3 280 ft.) high in the southeast, Karst limestone region of caves in the south-southwest, hills in the east, and approximately 50 kilometers (39 mi.) of coastline on the Adriatic Sea.

Climate: Mixture of continental, Alpine and Mediterranean climate, with cold winters and warm summers.

Nationality: Noun--Slovene(s). Adjective--Slovenian.
Population: 2 million.
Ethnic groups: Slovenes 83.06%, Croats 1.81%, Serbs 1.98%, Bosniaks 1.10%, Hungarians 0.32%, Montenegrins 0.14%, Macedonians 0.20%, Albanians 0.31%, Italians 0.11%, Roma 0.17%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 57.8%, refused to reply 15.7%, atheist 10.1%, Orthodox Christian 2.3%, Muslim 2.4%.
Languages: Slovene (official). Hungarian, Italian are spoken in the border regions, and German fluency is common near the Austrian border. Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are spoken by a minority (6%). English is widely understood by business people and students.
Literacy: 99%

Natural resources: Coal, mercury, timber.

Agriculture products: Potatoes, hops, wheat, sugar beets, corn, grapes; cattle, sheep, poultry.

Industries: Ferrous metallurgy and aluminum products, lead and zinc smelting, electronics (including military electronics), trucks, electric power equipment, wood products, textiles, chemicals, machine tools.

Exports partners: Germany 23.2%, Italy 13.2%, Croatia 9%, Austria 7.3%, France 5.7%, Bosnia and Herzegovina 4.2% (2003)

Imports partners: Germany 19.3%, Italy 18.3%, France 10%, Austria 8.6% (2003)

Currency: Euro since 1.1.2007.



Location of PRESOV in SLOVAKIA

Prešov, third biggest town in Slovakia, lies in the eastern part of the country. It´s the regional centre of this part of the country, historically nown as Šariš. It is situated relatively close to Polish and Ukrainian borders. Torysa and Sekčov are two rivers which flow through the town. Prešov was built in the valley of Šariš hills close to Slánske mountains, approximately 250 metres above the sea level.

1 - Hlavná ulica street

It is the main street of Prešov. The street consists of Late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque burgher houses with lavish ornamentation.

2 - The Jonáš Záborský Theatre

The first time curtain of the profesional theatre scene was opened in a repaired building in Presov January 30, 1944. In that time Presov was a center of the eastern Slovakia and that is why the theatre was called The Slovak Theatre. The first time the curtain of the profesional theatre opened in Presov was January 30, 1944. At that time Presov was the center of the eastern Slovakia and this is why the theatre was called The Slovak Theatre.

The first performance was written by slovak dramatist Ferko Urbánek and was called The Elf. The next writers whose plays were performed in that theatre were Palárik, Záborský, Tajovský, Hollý, Timrava, Stodola, Urban, Záhradník and so on.

The premiere of musical theatre was on October 13th, 1948. This was the official birth of the theatre and the performance was called The Polish Blood, written by Nedbal. This performance is still one of the most often presented operettas in Jonáš Záborský Theatre. The authors of the operetta performances were Lehár, Strauss, Kalmán, Offenbach, Voskovec and Werich, Dusík… Before the start of the opera ensemble the theatre had performed Manzelle Nitouche by Hevré or The Earth Of Smiles by Lehár. The theatre dared to present operas La Traviata by Verdi, The Kiss, The Sold Bride by Smetana, Madame Butterfly by Puccini …

3 - Rákoszi´s palace

Influential Rákoczi family left its traces not only in Košice but in Prešov as well. During the anti – Habsburg uprising a lot of political meetings took place here, such as the meeting of Juraj Rákoczi with the emperor Ferdinand ; František II. Rákoczi made this palace his residence during the mentioned uprisings. Today it is the seat of the Regional Museum.

4 - Greek – catholic church of St. John the Babtist

This church on Hlavná street, with its beautiful baroque facade.
Greek – catholic believers had their hardest times during the communistic regime. They were, together with priests, persecuted even harder than those belonging to the Roman – catholic or evanjelic church. The whole orders were destroyed. In 1950 it was decided in Prešov that the whole Greek – catholic church will be totally destroyed in Czechoslvakia. During the act called "Prešov´s sobor" bishop Pavol Peter Gojdič was arrested and according to the construed trial he was sentenced for life for treason. He died in Leopoldov prison because of bad treatment and torment on his 72. birthday, 17.7.1962. He was burried on the military cemetary and his grave was marked with the number only. After the Velvet revolution his body was brought back to Prešov, and laid into crypt exposed in this church. Bishop is laid there with another martyr Vasiľ Hopko. Pope John Paul II. proclaimed Pavol Gojdič for blessed in 2001. In 1995 Pope visited this church during his official visit of Slovakia.
Nevertheless, there´s one more very rare and vulnerable relics in this church – a copy of the Turin shroud. There are, except the original, only 4 copies of the shroud in the whole world – in Turin (original cannot be shown on public), second copy is in Prešov, and the rest are supposed to be in Jerusalem and Vilnius, Lithuania. According to the legend, Jesus was wraped up by this shourd after he was put duwn from the cross. You can find it on the right side of the church, next to the bishop´s throne.

5 - Church of St. Nicholas

Main feature of the Hlavná street. It was built in ghotic style, with rich decorated windows. Inside is baroque altar from the end of 17. cent, renaissance – baroque organ and renaissance font from the red marble. The tower is opened for public, it offers beautiful view on the town.

5 - Neptun´s fountain on the square

Jewis people were not very welcomed in Prešov in the past. The first written mention about them is from the year 1530. Because they ment strong competition for local businesmen, it was very difficult to get into the town for them. The break point happened only in the 18. century when the first Jewish citizen settled inside the city, businessman Mark Holländer. Being thankful from the given trust he had built the Neptun´s fountain on the square. Till today it is on of the most beautiful and important sights of the town.

6 - The Square Holy Trinity

7 - The Church of Christ the King

8 - The Church Queen of Peace

9 - The Church of the St. Cross (Calvary)

Ideal tip for accidentally free hour or two is the walk on the Calvary. Many Prešov´s inhabitants are in love with this place, they go there for Sunday walks with kids or whenever without reason, to have a look on the things "from above". This baroque church was built in the 18. century and is very well visible from many places in Prešov. It stands on the hill on the western part of the town, it has red colour with bright white contours. To the church leads calm, easy route, combination of stairs and small hills, passing the flowerbeds and chapels in the peaceful surroundings. In front of the church are places to sit and silently watch the life of the whole city. During the good weather the view is wonderfull, all three castles around Prešov are visible from here, as well as all the neighbourhoods and historical centre.


Postcard sent by Antonia, as "matadorka"
Private swap - Reference SK002

Prešov : main sights of the city


SLOVAKIA - Country profile




The current form of the flag of Slovakia was adopted by Slovakia's Constitution, which came into force on 3 September 1992. The flag, in common with other Slavic nations, uses the white, blue and red colours.

Slovakia's flag in its current form (but with another coat of arms on it or without any arms) can be dated back to the revolutionary year 1848. It was also used semi-officially in Czechoslovakia before World War II, by the Slovak Republic during WWII, and finally adopted (without the coat of arms) on 1 March 1990 as the flag of the Slovak Republic within Czechoslovakia. The coat of arms was added on 3 September 1992 and a special law describing the details of the flag followed in February 1993.

The blue triangle in the current flag of the Czech Republic, with which Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia up to the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia, was taken over from the blue strip of Slovakia's flag in 1920 into the flag of Czechoslovakia. The flag of Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Czech Republic in late 1992 in direct violation of the 1992 Act on the Division of Czechoslovakia explicitly forbidding state symbols to be used by the two successor states.[1]

Since the Slovak flag without the coat of arms is identical to that of the modern flag of Russia and it can also be compared to the modern flag of Slovenia, the Constitution of Slovakia added the national coat of arms in September 1992.


Nad Tatrou sa blýska (English: Lightning Over the Tatras) is the national anthem of Slovakia. The origins of the anthem are in the Central European activism of the 19th century. Its main themes are a storm over the Tatra mountains that symbolized danger to the Slovaks, and a desire for a resolution of the threat. It used to be particularly popular during the 1848-1849 insurgencies.

During the days of the Czechoslovakia, the anthem was played in many Slovak towns at 12:00 noon. This tradition ceased to exist after the two nations split. Nad Tatrou sa blýska is now performed mainly at special events, including sporting events.


Official Name:
long form: Slovenska Republika
int'l form: Slovakia
int'l long form: Slovak Republic
abbreviation: SR

ISO Country Code: sk

Capital City: Bratislava (pop. 451 395)

Other Cities:
Kosice (242 170)
Capital of Eastern Slovakia and the second largest city in the Slovak Republic.
Presov (93 461)
City of Presovsk (Slovak)
Nitra (87 555), Zilina (86 923), Banska Bystrica (84 816)

Type: Parliamentary republic.
Independence: The Slovak Republic was established l January 1993
(former Czechoslovak Republic established 1918).
Constitution: Signed September 3, 1992.

Location: landlocked country in Central Europe, bounded on the northwest by the Czech Republic, on the north by Poland, on the east by Ukraine, on the south by Hungary, and on the southwest by Austria.

Climate: Temperate; mild summers; cold, cloudy, humid winters.

Nationality: Slovak(s).
Population (May 2001 census*): 5 379 455.
Ethnic groups (2001): Slovaks 85.8%, Hungarians 9.7%, Roma 1.7%, Czechs 0.8%, Ruthenians 0.4%, Ukranians 0.2%, other 1.4%.
Unofficial estimates place the Roma population between 6%-10%.
Religions (2001): Roman Catholic 69%, Protestant 9%, Greek Catholic 4%, Orthodox 0.9%.
Languages: Slovak (official), Hungarian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian.
Literacy: 99%.

Natural resources: Antimony, mercury, iron, copper, lead, zinc, magnesite, limestone, lignite.

Agriculture products: Milk, eggs, poultry, cattle, hogs, potatoes, oils, grains, vegetables.

Industries: Metal and metal products; food and beverages; electricity, gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel; chemicals and manmade fibers; machinery; paper and printing; earthenware and ceramics; transport vehicles; textiles; electrical and optical apparatus; rubber products.

Exports partners: Germany 37.2%, Czech Republic 12%, Austria 9.8%, Italy 5.4%, Poland 4.7%, US 4.7%, Hungary 4.2% (2003)

Imports partners: Germany 27.5%, Czech Republic 18.3%, Russia 10.8%, Austria 6.4%, Italy 5.6%, Poland 4.1%, Hungary 4% (2003)

Currency: Slovak Koruna (SKK)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

JAPAN - Nara, Tohdai-ji Temple, Rushana Daibutsu

JAPAN stamp

Location of NARA in JAPAN

Nara (奈良市) is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture, directly bordering Kyoto Prefecture. Eight temples, shrines and ruins in Nara, specifically Tōdai-ji, Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji and the Heijō Palace remains, together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest, collectively form "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Rushana Daibutsu - Todaiji Temple - Nara

This statue, found in Todaiji is the largest bronze statue in the world. It was completed in 749 AD. The statue is 15 meters high and used to be gold plated. Unfortunately, after the fire during the war in 1567 the statue needed to be recast, but was not plated with gold that time.
The pedestal of the statue has 28 lotus flowers, depicting the ‘universe’ called the Lotus World. The lotus is used as a symbol of enlightenment. The Emperor Shoumu, who had this statue built, had a wish that those who built the statue and guarded it through the ages may attain a state of enlightenment and be bathed in the light of understanding.

UNESCO World Heritage Site :

Date of inscription : 1998

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 784. During this period the framework of national government was consolidated and Nara enjoyed great prosperity, emerging as the fountainhead of Japanese culture. The city's historic monuments – Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace – provide a vivid picture of life in the Japanese capital in the 8th century, a period of profound political and cultural change.

Postcard sent by Masako, as "hatopoppo"
Private swap - Reference JP011

Rushana Daibutsu (National Treasure) Tohdai-ji Temple, Nara
The statue's sitting height is about 15 m.
The largest bronze in the world, completed in A.D. 749
by the Emperor Shômu's order

JAPAN - Kobe Port , a nocturnal scene

JAPAN stamp

Location of KOBE in JAPAN

Kobe (神戸市) is the sixth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyōgo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshū, approximately 500 km west of Tokyo. Kobe is a prominent port city with a population of about 1.5 million. The city is located in the Kansai region of Japan and is part of the Keihanshin (京阪神) metropolitan area along with Osaka and Kyoto. Keihanshin in turn is part of the Taiheiyō Belt, a megalopolis. Kobe is classified as one of Japan's seventeen designated cities.

The Port of Kobe is a Japanese maritime port in Kobe, Hyōgo in the greater Osaka area, backgrounded by the Hanshin Industrial Region.

Located at a foothill of the range of Mount Rokkō, flat lands are limited and constructions of artificial islands have carried out, to make Port Island, Rokko Island, island of Kobe Airport to name some.


Meriken Park is a waterfront park located in the port city of Kobe. The park features the Kobe Port Tower, Kobe Maritime Museum, and a memorial to victims of the Great Hanshin earthquake. The name of the park comes from the word "American," which was commonly translated as "Meriken" during the Meiji era. Meriken Park is also the location of the Hotel Okura Kobe and Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel.


Kobe Port Tower, a hyperboloid structure, is a 108 metre high lattice tower in the port city of Kobe. Kobe Port Tower has an observation deck at a height of 90.28 metres. The red steel Port Tower offers a spectacular sight of the bay area and the surrounding area.

The construction of the Kobe Port Tower was completed in 1963 and it looks like the Sydney Tower. The unusual design with scaffolding cover at the top is liked by tourists all over the world. The massive tower decorated with lights all over presents a unique sight at night.


Postcard sent by Masako, as "hatopoppo"
Private swap - Reference JP010

Kobe Port a nocturnal scene.
On Kobe port, gorgeous Passenger ships as well as
large and small liner arrive and leave one after another.
Kobe is the busy port that never sleep all night,
and is a nightless city.

JAPAN - Chiba, famous lighthouse of Inubozaki

JAPAN stamp

Location of CHIBA in JAPAN

Chiba (千葉市) is the capital city of Chiba Prefecture, Japan. It is located approximately 40 km east of the center of Tokyo on Tokyo Bay. Chiba City became a government designated city in 1992. Its population as of 2008 is approximately 960,000.

Chiba City is also one of the Kantō region's primary seaports, and is home to Chiba Port, which handles one of the highest volumes of cargo in the nation. Much of the city is residential, although there are many factories and warehouses located along the coast. There are several major urban centers in the city, including Makuhari, a prime waterfront business district in which Makuhari Messe is located, and Central Chiba, in which the prefectural government office and the city hall are located.


The Kujukuri-hama Beach is a 66-kilometer-long coastline that stretches from Cape Gyobu (in Iioka Town to the south of Choshi City) to Cape Daito (in Misaki Town), and faces the magnificent Pacific Ocean. The Kujukuri-hama Beach has a long, straight coastline, which is rare in Japan, where most of the coastlines are irregular. There are no reefs, so it offers wonderful opportunities for swimming in the sea, as well as surfing and other marine sports. Recreational activities, such as resort fishing, are other opportunities to enjoy on days spent at the beach.

At the northern end of the Kujukuri-hama Beach is Cape Inubo-saki, the easternmost peninsula in the Kanto region. Cape Inubo-saki is a 20-meter-high marine abrasion platform. A promenade stretches along the rocky beach, where you can enjoy the sight of rough waves and feel the dynamic blasts of wind directly off the ocean.

Around Cape Inubo-saki, there is a chalky lighthouse built in 1874, "Chikyu-no-maruku-mieru-oka," the observation platform of the Earth, from which you can see the arched horizon, and also the Togawa fishing port where you can board a dolphin-watching boat from spring to fall. To the west of Cape Inubo-saki, at the southern coast of the Choshi-hanto Peninsula, there is the cliff Byobu-ga-ura, called the Dover of the Orient. It is an awesome scenic sight of 10-kilometer-long sheer precipices with heights of 40 to 50 meters.


Postcard sent by Masayo, as "MASAYO"
Private swap - Reference JP009

Chiba - Famous lighthouse of Inubozaki


Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List


  • Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area (1993)
  • Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (2000)
  • Himeji-jo (1993)
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) (1996)
  • Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) (1994)
  • Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (1998)
  • Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama (1995)
  • Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (1996)
  • Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape (2007)
  • Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (2004)
  • Shrines and Temples of Nikko (1999)


  • Shirakami-Sanchi (1993)
  • Shiretoko (2005)
  • Yakushima (1993)