Adventure

Cherry Blossoms in Toyama City

Matsukawa is a big river that runs through Toyama city. It’s pretty all year round, but especially beautiful in spring when the cherry blossoms come. On the weekend, and most weekdays, the riverbed and surrounding park are filled with people eating and drinking together. It’s pretty popular for companies to have an outing and to see large groups of businessmen eating dinner together on big blue tarps. I went during the week this year and it pretty quiet, probably because it was so cold!

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This spring has been really strange. A month ago the weather was flip-flopping, going from warm enough to wear just a shirt to cold enough I was back in my winter coat. My teacher told me it was called “三寒四温” Sankanshion – three days cold, four days warm. Although I took it as more of an expression it seemed to be a pretty accurate description. The cherry blossoms in Toyama Prefecture bloomed about a week and a half ago, and sadly I think all the petals are just about to start falling. Matsukawa river was just as pretty as last year, although definitely colder.

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Winter in Toyama Prefecture

There’s something about the humidity in Japan that makes the cold feel much colder. I’ve spent a lot of nights huddled under my Kotatsu and days layered in heat-tech. Apparently Toyama used to get feet of snow in the winter, but in the last few years it’s stayed very tame. Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetWhile we’ve had a few legitimate snowstorms this year, the snow has generally stayed minimal to nonexistent. Luckily for me, as a Canadian with lots of experience with snow I don’t mind the weather too much. But, I do miss having central heating… One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about living in Japan (or anywhere cold really) is to learn how to thrive in the winter. I’ve kept this idea in the back of my head this winter.

We’re lucky to have some amazing ski hills South in the prefecture. I went with friends last Saturday and I think it’s the best conditions I’ve ever had. There was a ton of powder from the snowstorm the day before, and almost no one on the hill. I’m not sure how that happened, but it made for an awesome day. It was also Valentine’s day and the man operating the top of the lift very kindly gave us all chocolate. ❤

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When it isn’t snowing or raining I try to walk to and from school. Last week I took a longer route home so I could walk along the water. There’s a strange feeling about seeing a shore or beach in the winter, at least for me. But it was really beautiful and made me appreciate the winter weather more.

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Winter #waves on my walk back from work. 🌊🌊🌊 #Uozu #Japan

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Seeing the Sunrise from Mount Batur

We started climbing just before 4:00 am. The climb was gradual at first and then became very steep the farther we got up! The climb was particularly challenging because of the loose rock that covers the mountain (technically an active volcano) and because we were in the dark, although we did have flashlights! We were with a group of 7 and two guides, who were both very nice and clearly thought scaling the mountain was no big deal. Sometimes they would need to return to the front of the group after helping someone below and would run up the mountain smiling at us huffing and puffing below. We made it to the top right around 6:00 am to see the sunrise. the lack of sleep plus the adrenaline of the climb made reaching the top incredibly exciting. I felt tired (but only a little) and incredibly accomplished sitting on the top of the mountain watching the sunrise.

After the sunrise we walked around the top a bit, feeling hot air escaping from vents and shouting to hear our echo (both firsts for me!). We ate toast and eggs at the top which tasted amazing (but it could be just from the exhilaration of the morning). The climb down was a new form of entertainment. The top of the mountain is covered in ash so I climbed down, I could jump a little and slide a few feet at a time. It was like snowboarding except my shoes got a lot dirtier. About halfway down the mountain we switched to a different route that was less steep and it was a fairly easy walk down. I made it back to my hotel around noon and fell asleep immediately! Ha.

The climb has inspired me to be more proactive about climbing in Japan, Living in Toyama is prime location for climbing and I should take advantage of it. One of my goals is to climb the three holy mountains. As most people who have done it will tell you, climbing Mt. Fuji is not fun. It’s long, difficult, and often wet. And after the two hour climb I did, I know the (at least) six hours of Fuji will be a challenge.

All in all though, climbing Mt. Batur was (surprisingly to me) my favourite part of the trip!

I went with Bali Eco Cycling, which I would definitely recommend if you feel interested in doing this. The guides were incredibly patient and kind, and they made the experience a positive one!

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Japan in Twelve Photos: A year in review

Twelve months have gone by faster than I thought could be possible (time flies, and all that). Looking back at all the pictures I’ve accumulated brings me back to so many great memories and experiences I know could only be possible in Japan.  I’ve pulled some of my favourites in a sort of visual memory of the past year.


August: Obon, Kamiichi

I left from Toronto arrived in Tokyo // sweat alot // drank 2L bottles of water sitting on my tatami floor. Obon happened and the office was empty. I went to a  festival in Kamiichi Town, went to a beach party and (sortof) climbed Tateyama.

 

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September: Osu Kannon, Nagoya

I started to figure everything out a bit more. I started teaching and meeting students. I took my first trip, going to Nagoya. I have this very distinct memory of being half awake and watching the Japanese Alps from the bus window as we drove through. I spent a lot time after school helping students prepare for a speech competition.

 

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October: Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

While my family was eating Thanksgiving dinner I was in Kyoto for the first time, eating burnt Ramen and visiting a cat cafe. I went to a Halloween party and to the speech competition. I learned that Kit-Kats are given for good luck.


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November: Kurobe Gorge 

The seasons changed later than I expected. I went up to the Kurobe Gorge in a rainy, cold, and fantastic train ride up the mountain. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Japan.

 

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December: Maki-Chan in Japan

In December my sister visited Japan. We went to as many places as we could from an English camp in Toyama to Nagoya, Tokyo, all over Kansai (Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), and finally Maibara. It was strange to suddenly have a piece of home in Japan. I went about 4 weeks without classes and missed it a lot.

 

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January: Hakuba, Nagano

I shivered at work and shivered in my apartment.  I went to Nagano to go snowboarding and loved every minute of the breathtaking mountains.

 

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February: Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

It was cold. The third years finished classes. I went to Kanazawa21 and and saw an amazingly cool exhibition and ate lots of ramen to keep warm.

 

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March: Dohtonbori Osaka

The school year ended, and it was really sad. My first fully-fledged trip to Osaka was incredibly fun, I ate a lot, walked a lot, and saw a lot. Omiyage was weirdly difficult to find. I saw sumo. I lost a contact lens. It was great.

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April: Sakura at Matsukawa River

Cherry Blossoms lived up to their hype and more. Outside my school, around the river, in Osaka, and in backyards, these trees were so soft and pretty I felt like I was in a dreamland.

 

May: YG Concert in Tokyo 

Golden week was four days of pure awesomeness, the most “Tokyo” experience I’ve had, by going to a concert, the robot restaurant, and getting swept up in the energy of the city.

 

June: Uozu Port 

It became summer, like fully summer with high humidity and blue skies. I spent a lot of time getting sunburned and riding my bike around. I don’t mind the cold winter, but summer is the best for exploring  the city and feeling re-energized.
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July: Tatemon Festival 

TECHNICALLY this photo is from August but I’m using for July for the sake of relevance. I participated in the Tatemon festival, which was an absolute blast. High energy, lots of people, and a really wonderful culmination to the long season of festivals and fireworks of the summer and to the year in Japan.