A Travellerspoint blog

January Scrapbook

Killing Time, Botanic Garden and Snow Sports

Well, it's the Year of the Tiger - as you can see from this; one of several New Year's cards I got with super cute tigers on them!


So to celebrate please listen to this as a cool soundtrack while you read this entry :-)

I've actually had e-mail complaints that I haven't blogged anything for a while!! Well, I'm sorry - but after blogging like a maniac over Christmas and New Year I finally caught up on all the back-log of things I had to blog and I was all up to date :-)

The downside of that is that now it's pretty cold and wet I'm not going out and doing as many things. So my blogging will slow down a bit over the winter months I guess; meanwhile I'll catch up on the backlog of movies I haven't watched yet (saw 'Avatar' and the amazing 'Where the wild things are' in the cinema recently) and also play a few games (currently going through 'Batman: Arkham Asylum'). I've also started taking regular lessons in Japanese language and calligraphy on week day evenings; finally, it took me a long time to find a teacher.

After new year I was back at work quite soon. However for the first three days of term the teachers were there, but the students were still on holiday (except for a few club activities). This meant that there really wasn't much to do. I prepared a few teaching aids, I studied Japanese, I started to design creatures that combined both the astrological sign and Chinese birth year of people I knew....


Yes, I really had that little to do! Luckily, several other teachers were at similar loose ends so I asked them to teach me how to play 'Shogi'; which can be very oughly described as Japanese 'Chess'. Though having played it there are significant differences, most significantly it's very difficult to move pieces backwards, slow advance is better and any pieces you capture can be replayed anywhere on the board as part of your army!!


Outside most days the weather was grey and cold now, with heavy wet snow falling and turning to mush around Imazu; though apparently not in other local places! So in the interests of getting out of the cold we decided a trip to the Botanic Gardens was in order.

Obviously in this weather the external parts were a bit colourless and bare -


but we went to see the (warm) greenhouses - and it's nice and colourful inside them :-)



It's actually a good sized garden so I think I'll be going back in a few times to see it in all seasons. One good thing about this weather is that I've finally had a chance to try my hand at snowboarding (which I wanted to try in Slovakia, but somehow never got around to doing). Well my first year students had 2-days of snowsports, so I asked if I could tag along and got permission to join for one day and got free gear and lessons all day :-)



I have to say it's much easier to pick up than skiiing (which I did try in Slovakia, and would never try again!!!), and I did manage a few runs all the way down the slope without falling over (and several more with lots of falling over of course!). Haru was very happy about this as she really likes snowboarding and has been doing it for several years, so the following week I was at it again with Haru teaching me a few more techniques (like how to turn the board around, rather than just zigging and zagging on one side like I had done before).


The little orange freak in the top right is the mascot of the ski slope; Hako-chan. It's kind of a bad pun, as the slope is on Mt.Hakodate and in Japanese Hako means 'box'; so an orange box with snow on it is their mascot! I'd really like to do more boarding this winter for sure, it is fun and a nice challenge.

After boarding we drove over to Kutsuki (a small place on top of another mountain in the woods) and visited the pool there to soak away the aches from my numerous falls. Luckily, I don't have any huge Yakuza tatoos as most pools in Japan won't let anybody in if they have visible tatoos.


For some reason this particular Onsen also has an association with the Japanese Yokai called Tengu.





Having read about half of that Yokai book Haru bought for me now, I'm getting very interested in Yokai myths and legends and I really want to visit some places connected with with the various legends. Several temples display what are supposed to be Yokai remians which I'd love to go and see;


but, again, that's in the long list of 'Things to do when the weather is better'. Still I do have a few things in mind for the winter; I want to go to see the Snow Monkeys in Nagano Ken.


I'd like to go to Osaka again and see the tent city there; Osaka has the biggest homeless population in Japan (somewhere between 7'000 and 10'000 people); many living in one park and farming food with the aid of a 'Homeless people's association'.

And if I can find out the dates of their upcoming events I really, REALLY, want to go to one of the 'Tokyo Decadance' events - a couple of these people were involved in the Halloween party I went to in Osaka, but a real 'Tokyo Decadance' event blends performance art, music, Gothic horror, circus skills and burlesque into a tip-top A1 club night that actually looks like the kind of clubs you only ever see in Hollywood movies normally.

Still, it might be a couple of weeks before I blog again - but there are a few things to look forward to. Take care, meanwhile.

Posted by DKJM74 17:54 Comments (0)

New Year’s 2010


I actually don’t have any photos from the 31st, which was even quieter than Christmas. Haru came around in the evening; we cooked and settled down with a movie. Now maybe it’s just that I’d been living in Slovakia for so many years, but I just expected certain things to be the same here; so I was really surprised by just how quiet everything was here…. total silence. As midnight got closer I kept expecting the fireworks to start, but there was nothing. Knowing my little alarm clock is a bit fast I turned on the PC to get the correct time and we counted down to Midnight and toasted with a glass of bubbly; but without the PC we’d never have know it was Midnight everything was so peaceful outside. Now in the bigger cities I’m sure it’s a bit nosier, but even in a small place like Imazu I expected something I guess. Still it was nice and I was happy to start the New Year in this way.

Anyway, the next morning (or the next three days) is actually more important in Japan. During this time people go to local shrines to pray for the coming year. So, on the first I took Haru to a shrine in Imazu.



Offerings had been set up at the shrine and the stone guardians were wearing little snow helmets (I cleared the snow out of their eyes, poor little things!)


The correct procedure is to stand in front of the shrine, throw a small coin into the collection box, clap your hands together three times then hold them in a prayer position at chest height and make your prayer. Short, sweet and simple; much better than having to sit in a big cold stone church for hours.

Haru’s usual habit is to visit Fushimi Jinja (The huge Inari Shrine just outside Kyoto) so the next day we met up in Kyoto and headed out there. This was a bit odd for me as it’s the first time since I arrived that I’ve really visited any of the places Nik and I visited during our holiday here in 2007. OK we stayed in Kyoto for two nights and I’ve been back and forth to Kyoto, but I hadn’t gone to any of the specific places we visited then; here we are back in the day ...


I even managed to find the exact spot where we took a hilarious comedy perspective twisting shot of Nik, and here I am again almost 3 years later and with shorter hair!


However the length of my hair wasn't the only significant difference between then and now. This is how the shrine looked when Nik and I went in April 2007.


And this is how it looked at New Year 2010.


Spot the difference – Yes, there are a few more people.



It took about 30 mins to get to the front of the crowd, which was actually flowing very nicely and we moved forward quite quickly, we said our prayers (which is more like a birthday wish here it seems) and moved on. Haru told me I featured in her wishes, but I haven’t fallen down and broken my neck yet – so it can’t work that well can it! :-)

It’s also typical to buy a small talisman for good luck in the New Year from the shrine. These range from small phone charms and key chains, to stranger things like arrows with bells on them.


Many things featured tigers as 2010 is the year of the Tiger (my year actually!). In the end, we both bought a small charm for each other, and we bought a bigger one that you have to write your wish on and leave tied to the shrine.


Surprisingly, despite having been here several times, Haru had never walked the full mountain path behind the shrine (where Nik and I got terribly lost!). So this year we did it.

The mountain side is covered in an uncountable number of red gates (OK so I read somewhere it’s about 100’000 in total).


There are also masses of small shrines and Shinto figures; mostly foxes, but there are plenty of other symbols, guardians and icons out there as well.




My favourites though are still the foxes. When you first look at them they all look the same, but look closer and you find that many are quite unique and quirky.



I think this old moss covered one was my fox of the day though, with the fountain fox being a close second.



However, there was one thing that beat even the foxes – a real, albeit stuffed, Tanuki!!


Tanuki are basically the Japanese Racoon-dog, but there is a rich tradition of folk lore about them as well. According to legend they are shape-shifting spirits that delight in playing pranks, often just to get food and alcohol. They love to drink and eat, so a ceramic Tanuki is a really common sight outside Japanese Pubs and Restaurants too. Actually, Shiga is famous for producing these ceramic Tanuki; Shigaraki (Shigaware). However, I haven't visited the place where they make them all... yet!!

The other very interesting feature about Tanuki is so well known even children sing about it.

たん たん たぬき
の きんたま は
かぜ も ないのに
ぶら ぶら。

Tan.. Tan.. Tanuki
no kintama wa
kaze mo nai no ni
bura bura.

(The Tanuki’s testicles swing-swing even when there is no wind.)

Take a look at these pictures, 1840's prints, that demonstrate the Tanuki’s remarkable testicular size and skill; not only huge, but versatile they can be used for fishing, scaring people or even as a temporary shelter.




You can see the full set here -


I was going to write a bit more about meeting Haru's family in Hirakata for the first time and what nice people they were, but I think that after all those Tanuki pictures, you're all going to be a little too distracted... so I'll leave it there for today! Just remember -

とらぬたぬきのかわざんよう!! Toranu Tanuki no kawa zanyou!!

Don't go counting the pelts of Tanuki's you haven't caught yet!

Posted by DKJM74 00:52 Comments (0)

Nagoya Port

I really enjoyed my last trip to Nagoya and wanted to go back and see friends there sooner, but I hadn’t had much contact with the Hanako and her friends since my last visit and I felt a bit guilty about just calling her and saying ‘Hi, I’m coming back!’. So, I was pleased when another friend in Nagoya, Tomo, asked me to visit.

I was very interested in seeing the Port area as it seemed full of interesting places, and despite having lived in Nagoya for many years Tomo had never been there either. So it was settled.




The main attraction at the Port is the huge aquarium; I really wanted to see it, but I was a little worried that it would be very similar to the Kaiyukan in Osaka. Obviously there were some similarities, but I’m happy to say there were some significant differences as well that made it well worth the visit.

The first of the two buildings is really dedicated to two animals; white whales and dolphins. White whales are one of those creatures that just look so happy and gentle it’s a pleasure to watch them.


I was fascinated by the powerful ripple of their abdominal muscles under the skin powering them forward, which you can see quite well in this video.

Dolphins are always a pleasure to watch as well, they are so naturally playful. Though it’s difficult to get a good photo of them the right way up, as they delight in shooting across the bottom of the pool upside down, curling up the glass and only going away from you right side up.



Though we did get a better view of them during their show!


I like the way you can follow them underwater on the big screen as well :-)

In the rest of the aquarium I tried to avoid taking too many pictures of things I’d taken photos of in the Kaiyukan and focus on the more unique things; so here are a few things that really impressed me.

Some wonderful tiny mudskippers and a huge school of ever shifting sardines.


A giant octopus and a hyperactive sea cucumber.


More jelly fish, a pig-nosed turtle and a lonely sea horse.


Some very spiky urchins, a tiger eel and a pair of rock fish.


OK the rock fish can have their own close up as they’re hard to see otherwise.


However, perhaps the most interesting exhibition was one that didn’t even have much living in it; a collection of preserved deep sea fish. Pretty much impossible to take out of their high pressure environment alive, but they do get washed up dead sometimes after big storms or tsunami. Incredible things I’ve only ever seen in documentaries.


They even had two examples of early diving suits; the one on the left is from about 400 years ago. It only allowed the user to dive as deep as the tube connected to the surface by a wooden float would stretch!! Fantastic devices, and as an added bonus they look like classic Scooby Doo ‘ghosts’.


After leaving the aquarium we crossed the rather pretty rainbow bridge to the Antarctic Exploration Museum, which is housed on the actual boat used for the journeys (now decommissioned).








I particularly liked the story of those two sleigh dogs, when weather conditions turned unexpectedly bad the exploration team was unable to get back to the station where these dogs were and had to return to Japan without them. However, when the following year’s expedition team arrived they found both dogs alive and waiting, having fended for themselves for a whole year in the Antarctic – yay! Brave pups.

These two things had taken most of the day to see and by now the sun was really going down. So what better way to finish the day than a visit to ‘THE ZOMBIE HOUSE’!!!



Thanks to Gavin’s Christmas present I survived and got back to my accommodation; the same Ryokan I stayed in last time.

The next day was a much quieter day, as it was December 30th and pretty much everything was shut in anticipation for the end of year holidays. So Tomo showed me around the older parts of Nagoya (actually very close to my Ryokan), full of small back streets, little shrines and traditional buildings.


These streets would look much nicer if it wasn’t for the mess of, frankly dangerous looking, power cables bundled overhead.


My personal favourite spot on this tour was an recently abandoned live house or night club that had a great atmosphere – but I want to do a special report on called ‘The Haikyo and the Homeless’ soon so I’ll save that and all the stray cats we saw for later; but here’s one shot with Tomo outside that building.


Thanks for showing me around, I had a good time!

Posted by DKJM74 02:41 Comments (1)

Miyajima Island


A short train ride away from Hiroshima you can take a ferry from the port over to Miyajima Island; it’s a large island famous for oysters, its native deer that have free range over the whole island and a beautiful temple complex built to ‘sit’ on the high tide water in the bay. So after a night in Hiroshima this is where we headed off to the next day.


It was a gorgeous clear day when we got on the ferry, and you could clearly see the oyster pots floating in the water and the mountain peaks of the island.



As soon as you get off the boat there are deer strolling along the road, greeting visitors with a friendly ‘Oy! You, where’s the food!’ manner.


As this photo proves if you don’t bring food in your jacket pockets, the jacket itself will do!


But of course the deer can’t rely just on visitors for food and that are quite self sufficient too – here we can see them queuing to buy ice cream :-)


Though there’s nothing stopping them, the deer seem to avoid the old covered market streets that line the route between the port and the temple. Most the shops are real tourist traps, but there’s still something nice about them, and as ever there are masses of places to eat (Japanese people love food!)



Maybe they were afraid of getting spanked with the world’s biggest rice paddle??


Who knows – but once you get through the market streets the photogenic little buggers are everywhere again.



The temple is also located on this side of the market streets, its most notable feature being the huge gate built out in the bay. At high tide the lower part is submerged, but at low tide you can walk all the way out to it.



When we arrived the tide was coming in, but you could still get quite close to the gate.


This meant that the temple was high and dry as well, despite all the stilt like legs obviously intended to hold it above the high tide.


The interior is the same typical red painted hallways and columns seen in so many temples here, but the spread out floor plan and openness of it gave it a nice fresh feeling that I really liked; and you have to love the honour system used to prevent people from entering via the exit without paying!





As was clearly visible from the ferry, most of the island’s interior is pretty densely forested mountains; but traversing it is not too difficult thanks to a handy cable car line (or ropeway as the Japanese call it; ‘Wonderful scenery is seen by least.’ Indeed!)




Going up the first stage we got a gondola to ourselves so we could really enjoy the view in comfort.


The second stage used bigger gondolas and goes from one peak to another giving spectacular views over the Sea of Japan dotted with smaller islands.





This final station is a great observation point, and for the end of December the weather was wonderful. I guess we were just that bit more south, closer to the sub-tropic regions further down the islands.


From here it was possible to do one last stretch by walking a twisting path up to a final rocky peak. There was something so mysterious and reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie, or level of a Tomb Raider game, about how a turn in the path would reveal just part of a structure in the trees ahead.







At the top, after posing for some heroic pictures we took a well earned rest and just enjoyed the view.





Soon it was time to head back down; another hike and two cable cars later we were back down to the temple. Only now the tide had come in, so we got to see the temple the way it was intended to be seen… floating :-)



I can honestly say Miyajima is the most beautiful place I’ve visited in Japan yet. It was a great weekend with the history and sombreness of Hiroshima perfectly balanced with the beauty and vitality of Miyajima. It was also further proof that Haru and I can spend extended amounts of time together without getting frustrated and annoyed with each other; so hooray for that! I think both of us are looking forward to more trips like this in the future :-)



Posted by DKJM74 01:14 Comments (4)

Christmas '09

with Boxing Day in Hiroshima

Christmas was a very low key affair not being such an important event in Japan. I had a small tree I had ‘liberated’ from the junk to be thrown away after the Bunkasai sale; but that was ok as there wasn’t much in the way of presents to go under it anyway.


I’d had early gifts from my family before leaving for Japan and I didn’t expect any friends to send anything so far – except Gavin who surprised me by stepping up and sending me a heart warming / spine chilling gift. Thanks Gav :-)


Obviously people think I need to be protected from supernatural beasties as Huru got me this surprisingly similarly themed book.


Now I would have been more than happy with that book, but Haru really surprised me with a present so cool it needs a video to introduce it!!

Then we also exchanged Christmas traditions. Haru introduced me to Japanese style Christmas cakes.


And I introduced her to ‘A Muppet Christmas Carol’ – best Christmas film ever!! So we had a nice little celebration on the 24th, because on the 25th Haru had to work; see told you Christmas not such a big thing here.

We did have more planned though and on the 26th we took the Shinkansen south-west down to Hiroshima.

Hiroshima is one of those unfortunate places that everybody knows because of its tragic history, it also makes it one of those places you feel compelled to see ‘lest we should forget’. The most famous feature and ‘symbol’ of Hiroshima is the A-bomb Dome that stands by the river; interestingly it's the design work of a Czech architect called Jan Letzel.


The plaque can say better than I can what it is.


The dome is actually a little way away from the very epicentre of the blast. Where that happened there is now a hospital, and just a small statue.

P1060212.jpg P1060209.jpg

The shadow around the base of the statue was burnt there by the blast.


The peace park around the dome contains many other memorials to the day and its aftermath, but dome is always the main focus with park planned to always show it framed in new and unexpected ways.


P1060226.jpg P1060245.jpg


Another interesting memorial though is the one dedicated to Sadako Sasaki. I knew this little girls story well because of my previous involvement with CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). Sadako was a young girl who survived the initial attack, but later died of leukaemia due to her exposure to fallout from the bomb.

You can read her story: here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadako_Sasaki


Her memorial is surrounded by display cases filled with paper cranes sent to Hiroshima from all around the world, many from school children who are learning about what happened there.



P1060235.jpg P1060231.jpg


Those last cranes are some of the ones folded by Sadako herself from her hospital bed, and they can be seen in the Peace Memorial Museum in the park.


The collection is a mix of historical documentation leading up to the bombing, models of the city before and after the blast. Artifacts found in the aftermath and preserved, the most affecting of which for me were the watches and clocks; all stopped at 8.15. These things speak for themselves.






Leaving the museum it’s good to be reminded that Hiroshima is now, once again, a living breathing city full of life. Even the trees blackened by the blast now put out new leaves in spring, and while it’s important not to forget some things, it’s also good not to think about them too hard.


So, needing something a little lighter to finish the day, we were pleased to see that the town still had its Christmas illuminations in place; giving us a nice way to spend a wintery evening. Enjoy!





Posted by DKJM74 03:58 Comments (4)

Manga Museum, Munchies and Makino

My School Trip and Hot Water

So here's my first entry of the new year - so I wish you all a great 2010.

Vsetko najlepsi v novy rok for my Slovak friends, and あけましておめでとうございます to my Japanese friends, and a Happy New year to everybody :-)

As ever I'm somewhat behind on my blog though so I'm still writing about December :-) This report is something I'm quite pleased about, it's the tale of how I came to organise my first mini, but sucessful, school event.

So, in December I was holding a 'Design an English Christmas Card' competition for the students. Of course this was totally optional, but I was pleased to see that I got quite a lot of nice cards made for me.


The best thing about this though was that it also got me into some of the best conversations I've had with students outside the classroom yet. We chatted about Christmas and art and drawing; some of my third year students also told me about a Manga (Japanese comics) museum in Kyoto. It sounded interesting and both the students and I were interested in visiting it - but can't really socialise with the students.... without permission - so I asked Kyoto Sensei (The Vice Principle) if it would be OK to take the students to Kyoto. He said 'Yes' on the condition their parents approved it as well, so I asked my friend Muro Sensei to help me translate permission slips I wrote into Japanese and we gave them to the students. In the end only 3 students had both the parental permission and the cash to go - but it was enough to go ahead with it.

So on December 19th Muro Sensei and I took three 3rd year students to Kyoto by train.


On the way we also met Peter, who teaches in Shinasahi, on his way to Osaka for Christmas shopping. Which was great as it gave the girls another chance to practice their English.


Once we got to Kyoto the museum was pretty easy to find.


I have to say that the Museum was not what I expected – I thought there would be exhibitions of art work and classic comics, but it was more like a big library with many, many volumes of Manga on book shelves for people to read. Photographs were not allowed in the museum – except for ONE place! (The 5 M's: Muro, Mitchell, Mika, Mai and Mayuka from left to right)


The most interesting thing for me was the chance to see a ‘Kamishibai’ (かみしばい) show. Kamibashi is an old style of entertainment that basically consists of a hand operated slideshow of 'Manga' art telling an action story. The woman giving the show was very friendly and funny, and let us take a photo there as well – thank you!



After we finished looking at the Museum it was time to go for lunch, but in the way to find a place to eat we saw a very nice small shrine. So we stopped there and had a look at that too - and Mika chased pidegons around :-) After that we had lunch in a cheap Japanese style fast food place.





We still had a little time to look around the shops around Terramachi Dori, and the girls wanted to take some Pikura pictures; Pikura are special photo booths where you can take photos against a green screen and edit them with funky backgrounds and art work before printing them out. They're really popular here, anyway here are a couple of the results; I guess this is what out CD cover would look like if we ever release one :-)



Well that was fun, but soon it was time to go back to Imazu. We took the subway to the train station, just in time for the train to Imazu and we sent the girls back home. Everybody had a good time and it all went very smoothly without any problems so I'm really happy about that, and on this base I think Kyoto Sensei will let me arrange some similar bigger trips in the future I hope; it was a big act of faith in me that he let me do this at all so I'm very thankful to him for that as well :-)



Once we'd seen the girls off safely Muro Sensei and I went to visit his old university. As he only graduated about a year ago he still has many friends there, and that night several of them were playing music at a nice candle lit event on campus.







Despite being bloody cold it was a really nice mellow atmosphere and very relaxing, and one of Muro's friends joined us for dinner - a wonderful English-Japanese hybrid meal that had me really laughing. Classic English Shepard's Pie, served with a side order of prawns .... ?? and eaten with Chopsticks ...... ????? :-) Well, it amused me!



Then Muro and his friend left for Osaka and I stayed on in Kyoto to wait for Haru who was coming over for the weekend for an Onsen trip. So following a late night getting home from Kyoto, and an even later morning getting up, we finally headed out to Makino - which is the nearest place with a hot spa 'Onsen'. It was perfect timing too, fresh snow had just fallen but the skiers hadn't come yet so it wasn't so busy there.

So this was the beginning of my Christmas season; a wintery walk, a nice lunch and a soak in a hot tub surrounded by snow :-)









Posted by DKJM74 22:09 Comments (0)

From November To December

TECHNICAL NOTE: Several photos got deleted from my 'Monkey Mountain Madness' entry by accident - I've only just noticed and restored the missing pictures; so if there were gaps when you looked at that entry it's all present and correct now.

So - it's December 28th now. I've just got back from a great trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island (took about 300 pictures - so that'll be a big blog update when I get to it!!) and I'm off to Nagoya tomorrow - so I've got a lot of blogging to do if I want to keep on top of it all :-)

This is another scrapbook entry really - bits and pieces from the end of November and the beginning of December.

I'll begin with November 28th (exactly a month ago!) which began with another invitation to go to another mountain with another museum on top of it; however this mountain was on the other side of the lake and the museum was the Miho museum.

The Miho museum is a private museum built by an fantastically rich couple who have some connection to a Japanese/American 'cult' of some kind. I really don't know the details, but I was hoping that the museum would be a flimsy cover for a huge cult brainwashing facility. In reality it's a pretty standard historical collection housed in a very impressive building right at the top of the mountain in a national park.

Photography is prohibited in the collection - though I couldn't resist taking a photo of 'Vessel in the shape of a cock' - because purile humour never goes out of fashion :-)


I did get a few shots of the building though - it is very nicely worked into the landscape (I think a lot of agreements had it be signed and conditions met to be allowed to build in this location)






Looking out from the museum across the valley you can also see the bell tower of the 'Spiritual retreat' that belongs to the same people - so that's probably where all the cult brainwashing happens!!!


By far the coolest thing about the whole complex though is the massive enterance tunnel - carved through the peak of the mountain to allow access to the site; there is something so space age about it. Maybe it's the way it's metallic surface shines in gold and silver hues, or maybe it's the small electric shuttle cars that run up and down it - but the whole thing just looks like a set from an early James Bond film.








The return journey took us back through Kyoto again, which as ever presented a few nice random photo opportunities.





The next day I'd been invited by my landlady to attend her cram school's Christmas party where the kids would be singing, acting and playing games. It sounded fun so I agreed to go.





This short 'westen' play was probably my favorite part. When the Sheriff brutally shot the bank robber than said 'I only shot him in the leg!' and the whole cast turning to the audience and blurting out 'Crime doesn't pay!!' at the end - classic!


We even got a, very abridged, version of 'A merchant of Venice'.


What I didn't know when I agreed to go was that I wasn't just a guest; I had to judge the singing and acting, and then award medals to the best students (The western play obviously).


After the kids party was over I was also invited to the after-party which was a meal and karaoke session in the cafe opposite my flat - oh, the high life :-) Still I got to see one of my 2nd year students sing and dance!





Sorry, no pictures or videos of my electric performance - you'll just have to trust me when I say I do a pretty impressive version of 'Welcome to the jungle' now!

December started off pretty slowly, I had to attend a two day 'Mid-year JET seminar' in Otsu. That basically means all the JET participants from all of Shiga were collected together for lectures and group workshops, not really being a fan of mass meetings like this I still think that most of it was a big waste of time - but I have to admit I did get one or two good ideas from it.

However, at Gavin's request for more food pictures on the blog, I did at least snap my lunch and some photos of the food hall below Kyoto station where they lots of sweets, cakes and snacks; more food pictures will be added in future (Remember if there is anything in particular you are interested in or want to see let me know, I'll try and add it to the blog! Use the comments box).





The next weekend I was doing more local community work for the kiddies :-) This time I'd been asked to help out reading English stories at the local library. My friend, Asami, works at the library so I was happy to agree.


I asked Connie to join me as well and she agreed, so between us we read three short stories so a small group of kids.


After the stories, Asami also got the kids to make origami Christmas stockings.


Haru also came to offer moral support, or maybe just to eat the cookies I'd bought for the finale of the story 'Who stole the cookies?' Either way it was nice to have her there, and while she was in Imazu we went for a ride to the North end of the lake and took a few really nice pictures on the beach there.







Despite being quite cold that was a really nice afternoon.

Well, there is still one more thing to add to this looooong entry that will bring things nicely upto around the Christmas period. So, on December 13th, Lelia and I went to Kyoto to check out the city zoo and the modern art gallery.

I think normally a trip like that would make for a whole blog entry on it's own, but the gallery prohibits photography and the zoo really wasn't very nice; it's very old fashioned with small, cages or enclosures still being used for several bigger animals. So, I wasn't really inspired to take that many pictures there; just a handful of things that caught my eye in and around the zoo - like this turtle basking with all it's legs hanging down from a little stump in the water :-)








This is the happiest I've ever seen Leila look!


And a few interesting photos to close with :-)

The Tori (gate) by the Museum of Modern Art.

A traditional theatre in Kyoto.

Some fake Maiko, there were too happy to have their picture taken to be real, so I guess these are just some ladies who paid to dress like Maiko.

I don't know who she is, but a stack of professional photographers were taking shots of her so I took a couple of sneaky ones too - maybe famous, may be a model, who knows?? She's cute!





And we'll close with a beautiful Imazu sunset :-)



Posted by DKJM74 03:06 Comments (0)

Mt. Hiei Adventure

Momiji hunting in Shiga

Now it was quite late into November and the leaves on the trees were changing colour, so it was a good time to go looking or Momiji (Momiji is the Japanese word for red autumn leaves, in particular Maple leaves). My friends Connie and Bonnie also had the same idea, and invited me to join them on a trip to Mt. Hiei the following weekend to go Momiji hunting.

Things looked very promising, around the bottom of the mountain. There were some very nice red leaves on the trees, and even some wild monkeys!! After visiting the monkey park in Kyoto because I hadn’t seen any monkeys just by chance anywhere, at MT. Hiei I saw a whole family of monkeys walking on the overhead cables like little furry tightrope artists.




From the bottom of the mountain we took a cable car and a rope way to the top of the mountain. The weather was quite cloudy and a bit rainy, but the views were still really beautiful.



At the top of the mountain is the Garden Museum which I visited in August. We didn’t go into the Museum, but we stopped at the viewing platform outside. It looked totally different today with the low clouds and sunbeams breaking through; very pretty.





Having been carried to the top we decided to at least walk a bit of the way back down. We set off planning to walk the rope way section of the mountain and catch the cable car the rest of the way. As nobody else was hiking down at all it seemed and soon we were alone; except for a rather handsome stag watching us from the trees.


Because it’s so high the mountain side is dotted with radio antenna on the higher parts, but lower down there are just footpaths and not much else.




Obviously not many people come down this way, which would explain why this small ski lodge had long since been shut up and left to fall apart. This is a small but classic example of Japanese haikyo; despite the exterior falling apart and clearly not having been used for a long time, inside pretty much everything had just been left in place. Racks of skis and a huge pile of ski boots, kerosene heaters complete with oversized kettles, all still there and untouched.







This was all great fun of course, until we began to realise that the path we were on wasn’t going to take us to the cable car station and it was rapidly getting darker and darker; which made for some nice photography, but also made us quite nervous.








After that last photo was taken it was too dark to be worth taking any more photos and was still had no idea how much further we had to go. However, we didn’t have much choice but to carry on going slowly and carefully downward using our mobile phones as torches. In the end it was probably about another 90 mins or 2 hours before we finally reached the bottom again having hiked a whole mountain in the dark.

Afterwards we all agree that although it was a bit scary at times (each of us twisted or strained something along the way!), it was an experience that had a good side too. In fact Bonnie later said it was the one of the most exciting thing she had done in Japan; so no regrets though I don’t think any of us would want to do it again anytime soon. I think we were all glad to be on the train home at the time though.

Luckily, for our aching bones it was another long weekend, so even with this unexpected night hike on the Saturday we still had two days to recover before work. Sunday has totally disappeared from my memory, but probably involved a lot of sleeping, lazing around and soaking in hot water.

On the Monday, Haru came to visit and I was another pretty lazy day, except for a nice walk by the lake side; we took a stroll along the beach down to Café Lac for hot drinks and cake.



The ladies who run the café also give you stale bread to feed the seagulls if you want, which is a nice way to spend a lazy afternoon.


Posted by DKJM74 17:11 Comments (0)

Monkey Mountain Magic

Arashiyama, Kyoto

When I first arrived in Shiga and was being driven to my flat in Imazu for the first time I saw something. I saw something that surprised and delighted me - it was a road sign, a warning sign, with a big picture of a cartoon monkey on it. The conversation went something like this -

Me - Monkeys! You have monkeys here??
Driver - Yes, in the woods and mountains there are monkeys.
Me - You actually see monkeys here??
Driver - Where I live you quite often see them on the road....

I don't really remember the rest of the conversation because after that I was away in a fantasy about monkeys driving cars, but....

The point is I've been looking out for monkeys ever since I arrived, with no luck. So I decided it was time to stack the deck in my favour and visit Arashiyama (on the fringes of Kyoto) and go to the monkey park. The idea of the monkey park is very simple, instead of putting the monkeys in cages they built the reserve where a big group on monkeys was already living. So the monkeys are all 'free range' but enjoy the food provided by the staff and visitors so are happy to stay around.

After sorting out the train from centeral Kyoto to Arashiyama the first thing was to find the park - I had a map. but it wasn't very clear - if only there was some small sign of where the monkeys might be. Oh - hold on a huge monkey with a hat and a spy glass, that might be it :-)


As it turned out, Arashiyama itself was a popular tourist spot, because it's such a naturally beautiful place. So Leila and I just wandered around a bit at first taking it in.


Once we crossed the river we soon found the Monkey Park itself. The viewing area, and most of the monkeys, are at the top of the hill. So first you have to climb up, and just to get you in the right mood there are plenty of warning signs about monkey viewing protocol.


Then there it was - my first Japanese monkey!


Some parents were unwisely trying to get their kids to stand as close to it as possible for a photo which seemed to freak the monkey out a bit. However instead of going into a limb rending frenzy it just slunk off into the bushes. But still - my first MONKEY! Maybe I wouldn't have been quite so impressed if I'd known that just a couple of minutes up the hill it was monkey maddness -

Monkeys on the ground

Monkeys in the trees

Old monkeys

Young monkeys

Monkeys playing

Monkeys chilling out

Monkeys grooming

And Monkeys....


Yes, well, maybe the less said about that the better....

At the top of the hill there is an observation point with nice views over the town below and a feeding station.



The feeding satation is a small building that people go inside to feed the monkeys, who are outside, through the bars; it's quite a nice reversal of the usual zoo dynamic.


Then, having seen more monkeys than you could shake a banana at, it was time to say goodbye to the monkeys - and for the monkeys to say goodbye to us.


After a nice lunch we decided to take a walk in the bamboo groves. Again, this is somewhere I`d really like to come back to, it was quite overcast when we visted but I can really imagine how it would look with shafts of light cutting down between the bamboo stems.


By now it was beginning to get dark and it was time to head back in Kyoto, land of the eternal Kimono. No matter when you visit you`ll alway see somebody in a Kimono!!


Back at Kyoto central station the Christmas tree was now fully illuminated and shining down from on high, quite nicely reflected in the plate glass windows of the building.


The illuminations were lit outside the station too, people were scurrying everywhere, and for the first time it kind of sank in that it was almost christmas.



Heck they even had 5 or 6 year old kids playing christmas songs on electronic organs under the tree - how much more festive can you get??


Well actually, you can get more festive, and crazy! All you have to do is stand in a freezing river, half naked, singing!


Don`t ask - I have no idea! And just when you think nothing else in Japan can surprise you - you find a really classy business like this -


(Though in fact a totally innocent cafe I think!)

And on that note, Good night, God bless and a Merry Christmas one and all!!

Posted by DKJM74 16:00 Comments (1)

Kaiyukan Trip

Osaka’s Oceanic Aquarium

So, let's start off with a little perspective on this one - today is December 23rd and the trip I'm writing about happened on November 14th; I always seem to be about a month behind on this blog :-) Still I am going to try hard to catch up over this holiday ... though I won't actually be at home much!

So even though I won't be reporting Christmas things until late January in all probability - I'll wish you all a Happy CHristmads now :-)

Anyway, what I want to write about today is another trip to Osaka, and one that doesn't involve Goth clubs!! After my last visit to Osaka, I really felt I didn’t get the best out of my visit to the Sky Building.


It was a really nice place to visit, but walking around and seeing the cosy observation seats designed for two, the nice little café there and the ‘lovers’ seat that lights up when a couple sit on it … I couldn’t help but think it was really more of a date spot. (Actually Japan seems very ‘lovers’ friendly, many places seem to have been designed with romantic couples in mind – which is great).

I was already thinking about another trip to Osaka to see the Kaiyukan (The huge aquarium built near the docks). So after the having had a couple of really nice days out with Harumi I decided to ask if she’d be interested in joining me and seeing the Kaiyukan and the Sky Building by night. She really liked the idea and we decided to make a weekend of it. Luckily, after we’d agreed that, Haru told one of her friends who managed to arrange a free hotel room for us in Osaka in a really quite posh hotel! So that was absolutely wonderful.

Haru actually lives quite close to Osaka so we met at the main station in Osaka, and then she knew exactly where to go which was refreshing after all my usual fumbling around with maps. So we made it to the Kaiyukan in good time, which was good because it’s a big place with an impressive collection and you need a lot of time to look around everything.


As well as the typical aquarium tanks it also had large displays with other water animals like otters (including some wonderful sea otters), penguins in a special low temperature display and a fantastic collection of jellyfish. Well, here’s a good selection of what you can see there.







The star attraction without a doubt though has to be the pair of Whale Sharks they have in the huge central tank. At about 13m long these are the biggest fish in the ocean, anything bigger isn’t a fish! Though it did make me slightly bitter to think that I missed seeing one of these in Egypt while Scuba diving; one day we split into two groups for the dive, one group had a rare up close experience with Whale Shark, one group didn’t …. Guess which group I was in! Still I finally got to see them, even if it was in an aquarium!

You can see the full Kaiyukan collection of photos here -


By the time we left Kaiyukan it was already late afternoon, so we had to decide if we were going to rush to the Sky Building for the sunset view or go later for the night view … so after a nice nap in the hotel we slowly made our way to the Sky Building :-)

Though, actually, we made good time thanks to the free taxi provided by the hotel, who also provided free entry tickets for the Sky Building as well (I’m not sure they knew we weren’t paying for the room!)

Well I was right – the Sky Building is a good date spot :-) We went up to the outside observation platform first and took in the wonderful views of night-time cityscape and we also found out that the ‘lovers’ seat is more cunning than we originally thought; sitting on it is not enough to trigger the light display around you, you also have to hold hands and touch special contact point on the seat with your free hand (so I guess you’re making a human electrical circuit that lights the lights up)! Perfect way of getting over the physical contact barrier with your boyfriend/girlfriend if you’re shy :-) I’m not that shy, but it was really sweet anyway.






Then we came inside and had hot drinks and cake in the café, and then took one of the big comfy double seats next to the huge windows (again carefully designed to be big enough for two but only just) and we sat and chatted until we decided to leave.

The next morning we took it easy, I snapped a few pictures of us in the room and of the view out of the window.




As you can see, the sky building was visible from our hotel

Then we just floated around Osaka, looking in shops and stopping for drinks and snacks quite often. Which did result in me making an impulse buy of a new winter coat I saw, only to realise the next day (when I converted the price from Yen to Pounds) just quite how expensive it was; don’t ask!! The other highlight of the day was going into a big electronic entertainments centre with Haru and having a go at ‘Jungle Shooter’ game and realising I now have a girlfriend who can handle a machine gun better than I can!! (Which made me like her just a little bit more). She’s also pretty good at hitting things with a hammer (even if she does cheat and use her other hand as well). Still I learnt that day I’d better not piss her off.


And that was it – another very nice weekend drew to a close, time for a long train ride home again … but I know what you’re all thinking! You’re thinking, ‘But Damon, you said in your Halloween report that Osaka is a kind of Crazy City and that you see something really random and weird every time you go there – so, what about this time where are the happy policemen, or street wrestlers this time?? You lied to us, didn’t you’!

Well, I’m glad you are thinking that – and I didn’t lie! I just saved the weird till last – check out these guys who obviously have too much time and loose change to spare and used it to get really good at playing the dance game ‘DANCE, DANCE, REVOLUTION!!’ Have fun.

And Merry Christmas!


Posted by DKJM74 01:53 Comments (1)

Yabusame やぶさめ

(Horseback Archery)

The 3rd of November was ANOTHER public hoiliday! I have no idea why - I've stopped asking - I'm just thankful for them all.

This one was very useful though as it presented the chance to do two things I really wanted to do. Firstly, there was a Yabusame display at Oomijingo which is something I've wanted to see for a while now (Yabusame is the art of horse back archery). Secondly, it gave me a good reason to ask Harumi out again, and despite being Japanese she'd never seen Yabusame before and was really up for joining me.

Riding the train down to Oomijingo station it was such a cool, crisp morning - for the first time there was snow on the mountain tops as the train slid past.


We met at the station and made our way out to the temple grounds where the Yabusame was taking place - as it is such a specific and highly skilled talent very few people can actually do it. So at this display there were only four Yabusame masters, though there were also several traditionally dressed judges and attendants carefully organising everything.


Things were still being set up when we arrived so we went to meet the horses -


Once everything was arranged there was a brief parade on the archery course -


Then the actual archery began - three targets were set up along the left side of the course and the spectators lined the right side as the archers thundered along the course firing at each target - and they go fast as well. It's a wonder they have time to prepare another arrow between targets; I soon realised they ride too fast for photography too.


Luckily, they did several passes of the course, the targets getting smaller after every second or third run and between passes they rode back at a much slower pace.


So on another pass I did get a chance to capture a bit of archery on video - as you'll see here, the action is very short and sharp. The first rider hits his target then almost a minute passes (during which time a new target is put up) before the next rider flashes by.

The good things about this is that it gave Harumi and I a lot of time to chat and have fun - and it was quickly becoming clear that we really clicked together :-)


We were both really impressed by the archers skill as well and when it was all over I wanted to get some pictures of them - and Haru also took my picture with some of the judges and attendants too.


And then, as we were there already, we took a walk around the temple grounds as well.


The most interesting feature there was this 'fire clock' -


after a bit of puzzling over it we figured out that it works by having some kind of controlled slow burn. That would burn through the ties holding up the weights at specific intervals, letting then drop into the metal tray below, and sounding out the time. Pretty cool.

So, that was about it for photos that day. The rest of the day we spent just getting to know each other better - and it was.. well, just really easy and comfortable. We both really wanted to spend more time together, so we agreed on going to Osaka for a whole weekend a couple of weeks later; and that was that, we were 'officially' together. It was so sweet and simple and straight forward, I wish everything was like that :-)

Posted by DKJM74 01:34 Comments (1)

Halloween in Osaka

Part 1


This is one I've really been looking forward to writing about, my second big trip to Osaka was more fun than a bag full of Kittens :-) I've never really done a proper Halloween big night out, but this year I knew Club Neo (the Goth Club) was having a Halloween night with a strict Halloween dress code. So in Mid-October I began to think about what I wanted to wear and do tests - in the end I went for 'recently turned Vampire' bite marks on my neck and blood running from my mouth. Vampire costumes let you do something very Halloween, but also keep it quite hot :-) At this point I was still 'officially' single and knew there were going to be a lot of cute girls there - so time to play up to those vampire fantasies a lot of girls have; there's a reason why the 'Twilight' films are so popular you know!

So here are some of the costume tests I ran -



I was pretty pleased with the look I came up with - thanks to Kyoto Sensei who gave me a stack of second hand shirts to shred and splatter with 'blood' and experiment on :-)

A lot of the other JETs were going to a JET Halloween party in Kyoto, but I really wasn't interested in that, so on the weekend of Halloween I took the train into Osaka early in the morning all on my own, checked into a hotel next to the club and went out exploring a bit - but we'll briefly skip over that part of the day because we want to get to the madness that Osaka seems to throw up everytime I go there!!!

This time it was random street wrestling!


I really have no idea why this was happening, and it was so fake it was hilarious (bouncing off ropes that were basically just bits of string between stacks of milk crates :-) for example!), it was however very entertaining and I guess they were just trying to promote their bigger wrestling events.


After that I crashed in the hotel for a couple of hours to get up the energy for an all-nighter, by the time I went out to get something to eat there were already a lot of people in good costumes on the streets so I hurried back got myself into my costume (complete with new trousers bought in a nice Goth shop that afternoon!) and I hit the streets.

I have to say doing Halloween in a big place like Osaka is fantastic - I was really impressed with some of the costumes and, as any of you who really know me already know, I have a bit of a cos-play fetish anyway so I was a very happy man! Check some of these out! You can see the Vampire effect was working - these girls were asking to have their photo taken with me - not me asking them - that was a first :-)


Well that was just early evening on the streets - then I went to the Club Neo; a lot busier than last time and some of the costumes there were just incredible -


The winners for devotion to costume though have to be these two -


That zombie make-up is professional standard! I'm sooo impressed!

The vibe in the club was great and I danced and danced - there was even a guest DJ from Italy; DJ blade!

P1040821.jpgP1040819.jpg P1040835.jpg

The most bizzare part of the night went unphotographed though - suddenly the music changed to a warped Operatic howling sound and all the dancers faultered and slowly moved off the dance floor the lighting went down and in came four girls in medeaval looking fetish clothes; two handmaidens a mistress and a slave. The maids disrobed the mistress and then together they stripped and bound the slave girl. Huge gothic candles were brought out and they dripped the wax all over her body, not just on her breasts - but her face and tongue as well. Then she was whipped. The costumes were amazing again, and there was such a theatrical air about the way in which it was done that everybody just croutched down where they were standing and watched in silence - it felt like being part of the congregation at a black mass or ritual. Essentially it was a sub/dom, S/M and bondage perfomance - but it was so beautifully realized that it did feel 'artistic'.

Not something you see everyday in 'RockCity', and not something I think I'd want to see everyday - but to see it once was a real experience. When it was over everybody seemed a bit shell shocked, but the dance floor soon filled up again - only there really seemed to be a bit more of an exciting tension in the room, like anything could happen. It ended up being a really interesting, fun and sexy night - and I'm very glad I went on my own instead of going to the JET party.

The next day I slept in late then went out to do some more sight seeing before heading home again. I went to the sky building, which is one of the tallest buildings in Japan and has some wonderful panoramic views over the city.


+ Another badly concieved jibbered commentary from yours truly :-)




I was planning on exploring a little more, but it was getting grey and rainy. Also I was aching and tired from the night before - so I got the next train home which gave me a nice two hour trip to muse over everything I'd seen and done in the past 48 hours. Damn, good trip! So, that was my Halloween adventure :-)


Posted by DKJM74 16:44 Comments (0)

Inter-School Sports Day

And Autumn Photography

So as time passes the days get shorter and the evenings get darker.


The birds are gethering in greater numbers on the lake


and the leaves are turning from green to yellow and red.


In short, Autum is here - which is good because I like Autum (when it's dry)! Luckily through most of October the weather was still gloriously clear and warm. Which was good for the inter school day. This was a bit different from the last sports event as various competitions were being held all around the area each local school hosting one or more sports and teams from each school travelling to compete. I was given free choice where I went and what I saw - so first I took the train to Adogawa and watched a bit of volley ball and table tennis. Volley ball because I promised my supervisor (who coaches the team) I would, and table tennis because I sometimes play with the students :-)


After I'd seen enough of that I decided to go to get the train to Shinasahi and watch the Kendo which was more interesting to me. I took a short cut across a field on the way to the train station


and came across a ditch just packed with frogs of several different types - so that ended up being a big distraction and I just stayed there for about half an hour :-)


When I eventually got myself to Shinasahi I found out that there was also a softball match there, so I stayed there for a bit and cheered our team and took some photos that came out realy well. I really like these.






By the time I went inside the sports hall the Kendo contest was over - though I was in time to see our team be awarded with a trophy - so I guess they didn't need my support :-)




I also got to see a training session where the Kendo instructors worked with the kids in the contest - which basically seemed to involve letting themselves get wacked over the head a great many times!




After it was all over I was offered a ride back to the school, but it was such a nice day I decided to walk it and I'm glad I did as I saw some really nice and quite random things along the way. So here's a collection of autumnal oddments from a walk in Takashima.















So, there you are - fragments of beauty everywhere :-)

By the way, I noticed that my entry about the Goth club in Osaka was very popular (lots of views!) so you're all in for a treat next time. The next entry will be from my Halloween night in Osaka, so expect street wrestling, hot costume cuties and pure Gothic horror soon :-)

Posted by DKJM74 04:23 Comments (1)

October Scrapbook

Kyoto, Speech Contest Round 2 and Otsu Matsuri


Now I’m getting more used to living here and travelling up and down on the trains Kyoto feels more and more like a ‘local’ place than some distant city – OK it’s over an hour away on the train, but it’s still very easy to go there whenever you feel like it. So I’ve started just going to Kyoto sometimes if I have nothing to do – walking around taking photos is always nice. You can always find strange things if you look - like this small chinese herbal medicine shop.




Kyoto is more relaxed than Osaka (It seems impossible to go to Osaka without seeing something really random and totally insane happening on the streets!) but exploring can be very rewarding. So here are a few things I’ve seem just wandering around Kyoto.



There are large areas of Kyoto that still have these old style houses - which look nice at any time of day...


or night!


This lantern, made from a blow fish, was hanging outside a resturant on a backstreet.



I love this shot - it's so public and private at the same time. You can easily see them, but not who they are.



Kyoto tower by night - personally I'm still not impressed by it! The sky building in Osaka is much nicer (You'll see that later!)

October 9th was also the second round of the speech contest. This time it was held on the other side of the lake and we had a much longer ride to get there. Kyoto Sensei drove the minibus with all of the Takashima students that had got through to the second round. It was less lively this time as before I had four girls entering the contest, but now only Sayaka was entering.



It was a long day, with many speeches and I think she was much more nervous than last time – she gave a good recital which I was very pleased with but didn’t win any prizes; to be honest I don’t think she cared and was just happy to have it over with!


The day after that was a Saturday and I went down to Otsu for the local Matsuri (まつり) - or Japanese festival. Japanese people love festivals (matsuri) and they are spread out around the year so you could visit one festival or another almost every weekend throughout the year. You wouldn't even need to travel too far as every town and city has them. Some are more famous than others (like Takayama festival, which I visited with Nik a couple of years before) but they all attract quite a lot of people. Visitors line the streets and locals get good spots on the roof tops!


The morning of the festival I met Connie who was heading somewhere else on the same train, so I finally took a picture of her – she deserves credit as a huge part of this blog was posted via her computer when I didn’t have an internet connection! So – thank you Connie; you’re a star!


Otsu matsuri is a classic Japanese festival; large, heavy, old style decorated floats pulled around the city by teams dressed in traditional clothes.



The floats themselves have artists on them playing music, or operating puppets to perform short shows.




They also throw goodies out to the crowd below and are ornately decorated - this one had old tapestries made in Belgium on it!


Another part of the festival is a fair with food and game stalls





– remember the game at my school culture festival fishing things out of a pool with a paper scoop?? Well here is the same game being played to win baby turtles!


By evening time the smaller children on the floats were getting very tired and some were sleeping despite all the noise -



I didn’t take that many pictures of the festival as I was a little ‘distracted’ :-) This was the day I met Harumi for the first time. After the festival parade was over we had dinner together in a resturant overlooking the lake and took a walk along an illuminated pier over the water. So, this is Harumi.


She’s holding one of the goodies thrown off the festival floats here (Mochi - a rice based sweet wrapped in leaves to keep it fresh!) and it’s the only picture I took of her that day; but there will be more as we’ve been out together a few times now and will certainly be going out together more in the future too :-)

Posted by DKJM74 00:16 Comments (1)

Hiking in Takashima

The Waterfall Hike

October 4th.



The Gulliver village camp outside Takashima city is the starting point of the 8 waterfall hike.
This hike had originally been planned as a JET group hike, but on the chosen weekend many JETs were busy so it was ‘cancelled’ – but as I was more interested in doing the hike than spending time with other JETs, I called Leila and we went anyway.

Gulliver village itself is a strange place, basically a big adventure playground with come holiday cottages and camping facilities as well. We messed around there for a while, but there were a few kids and parents there so we couldn’t really have too much fun on the playground equipment.


The hiking trail leads off into the woods behind the camp and basically follows the river upstream;


the water was pretty high and fast as there had been a lot of rain the last few days. Though today the weather was great and we several lizards out basking in the sun, including the world’s smallest lizard (maybe) that looks very cute sitting on your finger!


The river valley was beautiful and the hike got steeper and trickier as you went on, later there were chains and ladders set into the rock to help you (it reminded me of Slovensky Raj).


(Leila sounds fantastically Australian in her soundbite here!)

As you can see it didn’t seem that difficult to me, but I knew that only a month before a teenage girl had fallen and died here (the day of the Kayaking trip on Lake Biwa) so better to be careful; and I guess she wasn’t the only person to have died here as we saw a memorial plaque as near the top as well.


Once we reached the top of the main fall we had lunch


then we began the descent. As we were basically following the same route back again I took a little more time taking pictures and tried to get a few more artistic shots instead of just snaps of the waterfall. I was quite pleased with some of the results too.


Posted by DKJM74 04:03 Comments (1)

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