I don’t go through my old photos nearly as often as I should. There are a lot of gems in there, and many of them fill me with a rush of nostalgia. The other day I was browsing through my summer vacation photos and I stumbled across when I spent a week or so in Kyushu, an island south of Honshu in Japan that is home to boatloads of delicious food and sightseeing places that people rarely manage to put on their “to see” lists when coming to Japan.
I had some grand plan of reading more than ten Japanese novels this year in order to improve my reading, vocabulary, and what have you. I have since reached a grand total of three. Which, hey, is a far better number than zero, but it’s not anywhere near where I wanted to be.
One of my favorite downtime pastimes is to walk into a bookstore and browse, no matter where I am. Depending on the size of the bookstore/my ability to read the language, I can be in the same shop for hours. And while many people spend those hours standing in place and reading through a book, I’ll be flitting back and forth between multiple sections, delighting in everything available I have yet to read.
On one such outing, I came across また、同じ夢を見ていた (I saw the same dream again) by 住野よる (Sumino Yoru). It looked cute, I could read the title and first page without help and, most importantly, the story looked interesting to me.
My first memory of Fushimi Inari Shrine is hiking up the mountain and getting so turned around that a wandering worker had to help me find my way back down it before sundown.
Since then, I’ve had a fondness for the winding torii gates, the little fox statues, and the views from the mountaintop. I guess you bond with a place when you get stuck for a few hours, huh? But over the years as it’s become more and more crowded, I’ve visited it less and less, reluctant to face the wave of humanity that hits it. And when I did visit it, it was purely to grab an omamori charm or to lead a visiting friend through. I didn’t visit it for myself anymore.
At least, not until I performed there.
We had quite a week here in Japan; on Monday the Kansai area experienced an earthquake that left several injured and at least 4 dead. I was fortunate in that I live in Kyoto and was not on a train or anywhere near the epicenter when it happened; the worst I endured was a sudden, loud BANG followed by the sudden rocking of my apartment building–though I will say, that left me huddled in my doorway for several minutes after, eyes wide, clutching my phone.
After that, getting out of the house and enjoying things to take my mind off of the potential for aftershocks was a necessity. So when a friend suggested that we go and check out Daruma Temple, I readily agreed to the outing.
In mid-May, I received a text from a friend out of the blue, asking if I felt like going to Kanazawa. I agreed, because hey, who wouldn’t like a brief getaway from everyday life? It was only after we’d decided on the dates and times that I paused and wondered, “What’s even in Kanazawa?”
Turns out, a lot.
There are lots of ways to spend your free time in Japan; roadtrips, bowling, taking one-off cultural lessons, and, of course, karaoke. If you’re downtown in any given city in Japan, you’ll run across the Jankaras, the Shidaxes, the mom and pop snack bars that offer karaoke, and a host of other options. Depending on your group size or even what you like to sing, the world is at your fingertips in terms of options.
While walking the streets of Kyoto, I’ve noticed that something else has been popping up beside the karaoke boxes: climbing gyms. You can go in for one-off sessions, or sign up for a monthly membership just like you would at a traditional gym. Whether you’re already a lean, mean, climbing machine or a newbie, there’s something available for you.
It was only a matter of time before someone mashed those two ideas together.
Another year, another Golden Week come and gone. It always feels like it’s over in a blink, doesn’t it? Whether you spent your Golden Week relaxing, putting in extra time at work, or going on wild adventures, I hope you enjoyed yours to the fullest.
I’d like to share two adventures I had this year– a roadtrip to Fukui, and a bouldering karaoke room!
Let’s start with the roadtrip: Continue reading “Hokojima and Tojimbo Cliffs”
Last time, on Stefanie What, our heroes had attempted a night bus trip with the mixed results of having an entire day to explore Hiroshima, but struggling with the urge to sleep throughout said day. We slept very well in that hotel room, which is good, because our next plan was to hit up Miyajima Island.
Hello and welcome to a Throwback Thursday post! I don’t do these very often, but while perusing my past blog posts and my pictures, I realized that there are a few adventures I haven’t talked about here. Some may remain in obscurity for a while longer; others, like this one, grow more pertinent as travel season is upon us.
Yes, Golden Week is around the corner, and before we know it, it’s going to be summer. With all that entails. Cicadas, tour groups, and every flavor of ice cream you can possibly imagine. Among other things.
Today, I’d like to share with you part one of the tale of our overnight Hiroshima trip.
You know, I thought I was done posting about the fleeting beauty of spring blossoms. I guess that’ll show me, eh?
We’ve been blessed with some gorgeous weather in Kyoto lately. Think 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) and not a cloud in the sky. This is unusual because normally around cherry blossom season, we get one or two days of being able to check the sakura out before the rain knocks them all down. This time, we had almost an entire week of uninterrupted sunshine.
Which is fortunate, because if we hadn’t, I might not have been able to get to Hirano Shrine.
This shrine was recommended to me by a student who was shocked I hadn’t been there before. After the student urged me to see the blossoms, I gathered a group of friends and off we went to investigate.
If you’ve been up around Kitanotenmangu Shrine before, Hirano is about a 5-10 minute walk away, and is free to enter. I’d recommend checking it out even if it’s not spring, because the grounds are pleasant to walk through. That said, I’ve found another new favorite cherry blossom place!
Upon entering the gates, I was greeted with a row of food stands and spots for people to sit and enjoy a drink. The cherry blossom trees leaned over this row, looking for all the world like a natural 商店街 (shotengai, or covered shopping street). As you go from stand to stand, checking out the fried chicken, yakisoba, and other goodies on sale, you find yourself eventually at the front of the proper shrine itself.
When I first entered, I thought I would see maybe one or two large trees. I had no idea that there would be a garden full of blossoms. It was almost overwhelming; there were so many potential shots you could take with your camera.
The only downside was that there weren’t any free spots to sit down and just enjoy the blossoms. All the ground space was pretty much taken up by stands and whatnot that fenced off “their” area; if you stopped in to sit for even a few seconds, a waitress would rush over to hand you a menu and ask you to order something. If you don’t mind walking–or if you don’t mind dropping 500 yen for a beer–this is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon or early evening.
So! That wraps it up for the spring blossoms for this year. Where did you go? What did you see, and do you recommend it?