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New website Sydney Australia

Well as we can no longer really be called the "Hills in Japan" it seems the right time to retire this site as a memory to our time in Japan and to start afresh with a new site for where we are now in Sydney, Australia.

The new site will have a slightly different intent to this one (which was to share a little of our experiences in Japan) and predominately be a personal photo album, for you to browse :-) It is still under construction but stay tuned to for it's arrival!

Note: I do plan to go back and make some more posts (here on this site) from our last days in Japan - farewells, last mochi and things - just to round things off.

Kyoto in Autumn

It was interesting to discover that the tourist office would not really tell us the best places to view autumn leaves as they say too many people go there! Still, armed with our indispensable guidebooks we managed to see the key places for magnificent autumn foliage. We also managed to pick times of the day that the crowds were bearable but it was the buses that were unpleasantly cramped at times.
Tokufu-ji before the crowdsTokufu-ji before the crowds Kinkaku-ji (golden pavilion)Kinkaku-ji (golden pavilion)
Geisha'sGeisha's A magnificent dance by a Maiko (trainee geisha)A magnificent dance by a Maiko (trainee geisha)
Some of the thousands of  red tori at Fushimi-InariSome of the thousands of red tori at Fushimi-Inari Fox is the most common statue hereFox is the most common statue here
Arriving at Eikan-do in the warm late afternoon light with threatening rain cloudsArriving at Eikan-do in the warm late afternoon light with threatening rain clouds The most amazing autumn colours I've seenThe most amazing autumn colours I've seen

Cultural Day November 3rd

Cultural Day is actually the birthday of emperor Meji and is also celebrated on this day. Last years Culture Day experience was joining my Aikido club for their annual potato dig followed by a BBQ, no ordinary fare of sangas and chops! This year we went Meji jingu (shrine and park surrounds) and got a flavour of what the Meji birthday celebrations are. There were many sporting demonstrations, martial arts, yabusame, etc though with significant emphasis on rituals to cleanse the grounds. At the shrine there were some other ceremonies with the receiving of offerings from the Imperial envoy - in the past the Emperor was considered a god. We particularly enjoyed seeing the traditional dress or the young boys and girls that often go to the shrine on this day.
Young boy watching sporting demonstrationsYoung boy watching sporting demonstrations
Yabusame rider in the pre event ritualYabusame rider in the pre event ritual
Young girl at Meji shrineYoung girl at Meji shrine

Kyoto and Shikoku

Taking my parents on a 7day trip south was a special time together - with lots to see, many adventures, great variety and some good laughs.
This a small collection of some of the beautiful sights we saw.
Nijo fortifications, KyotoNijo fortifications, Kyoto Nijo Ninomaru Palace, KyotoNijo Ninomaru Palace, Kyoto Sunset over the Seto-Ohashi bridge that links Shikoku island with the mainlandSunset over the Seto-Ohashi bridge that links Shikoku island with the mainland Abandoned houses in the mountainous regions of ShikokuAbandoned houses in the mountainous regions of Shikoku The swinging vine Kazura-bashi in the deep Iya Valley of ShikokuThe swinging vine Kazura-bashi in the deep Iya Valley of Shikoku Monthly markets at Toji temple, KyotoMonthly markets at Toji temple, Kyoto

Alps and bygone times

At the start of September we went on a 9day trip around Central Honshu. Here is Simons pick for the highlights (in reverse order):
Takayama: Kusakabe merchant houseTakayama: Kusakabe merchant house Norikura Kogen: Sanobon-daki, 3 waterfalls converging into oneNorikura Kogen: Sanobon-daki, 3 waterfalls converging into one Matsumoto: one of the few remaining original castlesMatsumoto: one of the few remaining original castles Kiso Valley: Nakasendo highwayKiso Valley: Nakasendo highway

Yabusame without the crowds

Simon has become somewhat of a yabusame fan, so we took a daytrip to Mishima (out as far west as Mt Fuji) to see an event. Last time he saw it, in Tokyo, the crowds were thick. But here we could relax and freely move around and get great positions. There are three targets that the rider must attempt to hit, set at an even spacing along the flat, straight course. While riding at a flat out gallop, they msut retrieve each arrow, and get positioned again in time for the next target.
In flightIn flight Post event ceremonyPost event ceremony Receiving sakeReceiving sake
RiderRider Red bridge to tiny island shrineRed bridge to tiny island shrine

Tohoku Festivals

We've just returned from a 10day trip to the Northern regions of the main (Honshu) island. As always there was not enough time. On this trip we lined up a number of the regional festivals, including the "Nebuta Matsuri" in Aomori which is considered the largest festival in Japan.

"Kanto Matsuri" in Akita"Kanto Matsuri" in Akita This festival was not so much a parade but a display of stength and balance. It starts by lifting the bamboo pole with lit lanterns with outstretch arm above their head. After balancing it is slide down to the forehead, shoulder and hip.
"Sansa Matsuri" in Morioka"Sansa Matsuri" in Morioka Really amazing sound of drums, reverberating and filling the entire street.
"Nebuta Mastsuri" in Aomori"Nebuta Mastsuri" in Aomori The floats in this parade were dramatic being 3D with wire supports holding their shape. Fully illuminated in the evening made for a spectacular albeit rather scary sight.
To balance all the activity and crowds we visited some beautiful and revitalising nature.
Oirase Valley by Towada LakeOirase Valley by Towada Lake Hotokegaura cliffs of Shimokita PennisulaHotokegaura cliffs of Shimokita Pennisula


Once again Simon visited Takahatafudo temple in Hino. Despite being out a long way from downtown Tokyo (though conveniently in our city) it is a famous temple were there is a procession every year and the top sumo players visit. The occasion to visit was the magnificent Ajisei (Hydrangeas) covering the hillside behind the temple.

Been down, and lazy

Well once again I have been left high and dry in the finicky world of free web hosting. Free is nice but so far it has not been reliable.

I keep thinking that I will find a good host worth paying for when we've got a nice web site up for Simons photos, something more worthwhile...

Well now there are some 15 posts or more going back to March that you'll need to catchup on reading:-) Don't forget to log on to see them all.

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