Japan

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

Tsukiji reversing month-old ban on tourists

"The world's largest fish market is reversing a month-old ban on tourists at its riotous early-morning auctions."
"Some tourists had been caught hugging, licking and even riding the huge frozen tuna that are Tsukiji's most arresting sight, an official said."
- no it wasn't Caleb!
"He said tourists will be allowed to visit all areas of the market from 0500 to 0615 local time starting from 19 January."
sourced from BBC

If you are interested in the general flow of activies to get the catch of the day from sea to sushi shop at "Tokyo's Central Wholesale Market" in Tsukiji here is an interesting article...link to Metropolis feature article "Off the hook"

Back in Aug - Western Honshu Loop


For 15days at the start of August we travelled a loop around this western part of the main island. It was hot, humid and hectic! But great fun and Caleb was always keeping us amused. We started in Okayama and travel south/west skipping Miyajima, looping up to the north coast right up to Tottori before expressing down to see the fireworks at Miyajima and then stopping at Himeji on the way home. There were many highlights but instead of writting about them I've opted (lazy I know!) to let the pictures tell the story. I've compiled a thumbnail view of 56 photos, you'll need to be logged on to view them (see more Western Honshu photos )
Iwakuni: Kintai-kyo bridge at twilghtIwakuni: Kintai-kyo bridge at twilght Matsue: One of the few original castles remainingMatsue: One of the few original castles remaining Matsue: View over Shinji-ko (lake)Matsue: View over Shinji-ko (lake) Miyajima: Western Japans biggest fireworksMiyajima: Western Japans biggest fireworks

Nagasaki

Urakami cathedral: The atomic bomb detonated only 500m away.Urakami cathedral: The atomic bomb detonated only 500m away.Nagasaki has a fascinating and complex history.

Firstly, it is the port where intial contact and trade with European foreign countries began and was continued, and it was the only port open (with restrictions) during the 200years of Tokugawa seclusion.

Secondly, it has deep Christian roots (from first contact with the Portuguese) and the faith lived on even under sever persecutions.

Lastly, it was the second city to be devastated by an Atomic bomb.

26 Martyrs: Cruxified in 1597.26 Martyrs: Cruxified in 1597.
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