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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Kyoto Part Ni

Last week I had about 5 days off in a row so I took advantage of that free time and went to Kyoto. This was my second time there but I was able to see things that I missed on the first trip. My first stop was Fushimi Inari (fox) Shrine. This is where you will find approximately 13,000 red gates lined up one after the other sprawled throughout a mountain of trees. It was really stunning. I was lucky that I had a sunny day so I was able to capture the sunlight streaking through the gates.
The next day it was rainy and I had planned on Kinkakuji, the golden temple. Despite the wet and cloudy weather the temple was really stunning. It was so brilliant. It was smaller than I had imagined but still quite breathtaking. The rest of the area wasn't that amazing, but I think the rain was a bit of a downer. After that I went to a zen rock garden. It was quite beautiful and simple. It's a garden that claims to have only 15 rocks and the small pebbles and sand. Not one blade of grass is included in this garden, but there is moss so I don't know if they include that as vegetation.
The next day the sun was out again in full force and I took off to Himeji. It took about an hour and a half by local rapid train to get there and it was well worth it. It was really beautiful. It is the most popular castle in Japan. I think because it is perched quite high above the ground and the city it is seen as very prestigious. It is six stories high and has plenty of detail in every corner of the castle. Next door to the castle was a traditional Japanese garden with pine trees and a coy pond. Some of the maple trees were already turning colours which made for a beautiful sight.
I had a nice time in Kyoto and I was happy that I got to see Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kinkakuji and Himeji was a really special bonus.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mochi Festival

I know I am the laziest blogger ever but here's one.

Last weekend in Hekinan City, close to Okazaki, I attended the annual mochi festival. Basically we went to a local shrine and a top the structure with the red and white banner stood men who threw wrapped mochi at the crowd below. This may sound like innocent fun however the crowd was less than innocent. I saw old men shoving young people over and vice versa just to get these pieces of mochi. Why? Well, inside the wrapped mochi is a coloured piece of paper which pertains to a prize. The top prize is a TV and maybe 2 or 3 bicycles however the most common prizes were boxes of tissues, saran wrap and full size bottles of soy sauce. There were about 3 or 4 different groups of men who threw mochi. I was able to catch one piece during the first round and 5 pieces in the last round. I couldn't believe how crazy people were going over this stuff. Some people even brought long butterfly nets to catch the mochi before it got close to us using plastic bags or our hands.
I couldn't believe how much some people walked away with. This happens twice in the month of October and I guarantee that some people went back for the second week. Who needs a grocery store when you have a mochi festival?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sakura 2008

A few weeks ago in Okazaki it was Ohanami season, which translates to cherry blossom viewing. This is a very popular time of the year for friends and family to gather underneath the cherry trees and enjoy afternoon picnics and evening walks underneath the trees which are lit up with small lights. During this time there are stands of food set up around the castle in Okazaki and they serve everything from fried octopus balls, to turkish pita sandwiches to candied apples. There are also carnival games like scooping up goldfish with a small bowl and there was also a haunted house. The end of the season was capped off with a parade through Okazaki in celebration of Ieyasu Tokugawa, one of Japan's most important shoguns who happened to be born in Okazaki. Along with the parade, which features men and children dressed as samurais, a show of artillery from the Edo era and beauty queens, there were also dance teams putting on shows.
Since this was my second Ohanami season there weren't any surprises however when I was walking around the food stands I came across something that took my breath away... Safeway Select lemon lime soda!! I have no idea where the stand owners purchased the soda but it did have a sticker on it with a Japanese translation of the ingredients and such. Maybe Safeway is expanding to the Japanese market, just in time for me to return back to Canada.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chunichi Dragons

Last Sunday I had the good fortune to attend my first professional baseball game in Japan, possibly first professional game ever. I think the only game I've gone to that wasn't mine or my brother's was the Vancouver team. Anyways, this lived up to and exceeded what I was expecting. The stadium wasn't full but there was a lot of people there and they were all dedicated fans. Almost everyone was wearing some sort of Dragons paraphernalia or carrying something with the teams logo. This team is probably so well supported now in the pre-season because they were the 2007 Japan Series champions. They lived up to their hype as they won this game 2-0. Their official name is the Chunichi Dragons and their home field is the Nagoya Dome in Nagoya.

Fun Fact: The Dragons was the team featured in the Tom Selleck smash hit "Mr. Baseball." Also, part of Mr. Baseball was filmed in Okazaki, so I will definitely be watching that again when I come home. I've mentioned the movie to some Japanese people and they've never heard of it, but maybe that's because it's a 90s movie starring Tom Selleck.

I went with 2 girls from work (left to right: Heather, Milla and myself).

Friday, March 07, 2008


So this is more than a month late, but apparently someone (i won't name names) is still interested in what I'm doing over here, so here it goes. Near the end of January, Kelsey and I took a night bus from Nagoya to Hiroshima. It took about 8 and half hours and I barely slept a wink. After finding some food at the bus station we went looking for our hostel but on the way we stumbled across the A-Dome site. The weather was cold, wet and dark which suited the somber site of the attack quite well. The sight of the building didn't quite make the impact on me that I was expecting until we walked through the Memorial Museum. At first glance the A-Dome looks like any dilapidated building but once seeing pictures and reading stories about what actually happened, it is amazing that it is still standing. Near the A-Dome in the park is the children's memorial site and that is where we found the paper cranes. These were first created when a young survivor developed Leukemia and remembered an old Japanese legend that says that anyone who makes 1000 paper cranes will be granted a wish. She completed over a thousand before her death and after her passing her friends created book of her letters and the memorial site for Sadako and children of the attack.
The Memorial Museum was breathtaking. If you ever get a chance to come to Japan I highly recommed going to Hiroshima. There is an endless amount of information, pictures and items from the attack. There are things as simple as dishes that had been fused together because of the extreme heat. At the point of explosion the bomb temperature was about 300,000 C and at the hypocenter above ground level the temperature exceeded 6000 C which is about the same temperature as the outer layer of the sun. There's also simple artifacts such as the piece of sidewalk that is turned into a horrifying piece of history because the simple shadow burnt into the pavement which marks the body of the human being who was sitting there as the bomb was dropped.
The next day we went to Miyajima. This is an island that is about a 5 minute ferry ride from Hiroshima. You may have seen pictures of the great torii or gate in adds for Japan, as it is one of the most photographed sites. On the island we saw the great torii and it was really beautiful, however the tide was out and it would have been a nicer view if the tide was in. Also, on Miyajima deer roam free, much like Nara. For lunch Kelsey and I splurged and had the local delicacy of raw oysters. They were presented very beautifully and they were huge. The rain had stopped so it was nice wandering around the island and checking out the sites such as Itsukushima Shrine which is partially built over water and had great views of the torii.
We also checked out an art museum, some tasty restaurants and some shops while were in Hiroshima, however the Memorial Museum and Miyajima were the highlights and memories I will keep with me forever.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


After spending a few days in Kuta I decided that it was time to see something different and take a break from all the craziness in Kuta. I went to Lembogan island for a couple nights. The shuttle bus and the ferry tickets together cost $10 and once I arrived on the island I was taken to beach front bungalows. The price per night was more expensive than in Kuta but well worth the extra $3. I was in a bungalow with an ocean view, a huge clean bed and maybe 20m away from the beach. It was a lot quieter on Lembogan, which was really nice. After I settled into my place I went the the beach and layed in the sun for a bit and then went swimming. After that I sat a restaurant while having a coke and reading my book and enjoying the sunset. After the sunset I cleaned up and went to find a restaurant for diner. I had a delicious curry and rice dish. After diner I walked along the beach back to my place and did some more reading until the power went out. The rain was setting in along with thunder and lightening storm. The next morning the rain was gone and after breakfast in front of the beach I went snorkeling. I ended up going with an older Dutch woman. The snorkeling was really beautiful and after that our boat driver took us to another beach on the island where we could have lunch and enjoy the beach for 2 hours. Unfortunatly after that the rain set in. When the weather is bad there isn't much to do, especially on Lembogan. I think I spent the rest of the evening reading. Actually, after spending too much time indoors I went to a restaurant for dessert and tea and I met some other travellers on Lembogan. Two of the people were studying in Japan and two other were from Vancouver Island, so it was kind of weird to meet 2 different sets of people whom i had that common ground with.
The next morning I left to catch a boat back to Kuta. Once we arrived on Bali the rain set in and it was a torrential downpour that took about 4 days to finally stop.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bali pt.1

Over the Christmas holiday 2007 I spent 10days in Bali, Indonesia. I was nervous about going on the trip because I went alone. As luck would have it, I met a guy on the plane from White Rock and he also lives 30min away from me in Japan. He had been to Bali before so it he was helpful in showing me around. Anyways, once I got to Kuta I had to search around for a place to stay. I went to the guesthouse that Kelsey had suggested to me, however they were asking more than she told me so I kept looking. Two doors down I found a place for $5 a night. It looked quite nice from the outside (the picture with the pool), however the inside, espcially the bathroom, was another story. I had to borrow the green mosquito (in the picture) from Todd, the guy from the plane, because I was eaten alive my first night. The hotel wasn't the nicest but I went to Bali for the beaches not the hotel rooms, so it was ok with me. Also, there was a free breakfast in the mornings. On my first day I went to Kuta Beach and rented a surfboard. I had tried surfing in Japan before but I was never very successful because I was using a shortboard and it was hard for me to stand up as a beginner. I tried a bigger board in Bali my first day but I was still unsuccessful, so the next day I took a lesson with an instructor and a proper longboard and had success within the first few waves. After being at the beach for a few hours I wandered the streets back to my place. Along the way I was called darling by men and women hoping that I would come and buy something from them. The constant "hello darling, good price for you" was a little annoying but i later figured out that they weren't so bad if you finally took a look in their shops, however some would follow me around as if i was about to steal something. Kuta has a lot of energy and activity however I wanted to escape that for more peaceful surroundings. So I went to Lembogdan be continued