Asia

Japan in 12 Photos: a Third Year in Review

At the risk of being repetitive, I still have to say – time has flown. My third year in Japan felt not like another year on an overseas adventure but like another year of life – though still in a beautiful, exciting place. Over time my comfort zone has gotten bigger and bigger – and in the past year I pushed it even more to try new things both in Toyama and beyond. And now in September back in Canada, I have so much to reflect on.

August – Summer Camp

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In the summer, many schools have an English summer camp. Students and their teachers go far away into the mountains to these little buildings (I think they are usually used for company bonding retreats?) and have full days of English lessons and activities. I’ve been to over a dozen in my time in Japan and they never fail to be hilarious, fun, and a great chance to get to know students on another level. Not to mention… so. much. food.

September – Silver Week in Seoul

By good fortune, the elusive 5-day Silver Week holiday fell during my time in Japan. My friends and I took a trip to Seoul where we spent a few days eating, walking, eating, going to museums, and eating.

October – No Face in Toyama

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October came and gave me one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The previous year I had made a No Face costume to wear to some events. This year, I couldn’t let it go to waste and so my friends and I dressed up and took him on a little trip in Toyama city. It was hilarious to see the reactions to his appearance and it felt great to be a little bit of excitement in peoples’ day. You can watch the video we made here.

November – Kyoto leaves

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In November I went to Kyoto for the long weekend and saw the fall leaves at Kiyomizudera. I had such a wonderful weekend with friends and loved seeing one of my favourite places in colour. A word to the wise, if you want to see the leaves in Kyoto during that weekend make your bookings months in advance… it gets busy!

December – Tokyo

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In December I went down to Tokyo for Christmas! It was magical going to Disney and seeing the illuminations around Roppongi. Mostly it was special spending time with friends in a city with never-ending adventure.

January – Toyama winter fun

 

Toyama was COVERED in snow for part of last winter, so much so that the trains were delayed (that’s how you know it’s serious). There were a few weekend days where I didn’t even dare go outside due to wind and snow. The upside was seeing Toyama in this beautiful white blanket and doing some fun things like ice skating!

February – It’s Raining Ramen

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February was the return of the Nyuzen Ramen Festival, an event I can honestly say I waited a full year for in anticipation. I chowed down on some delicious ramen and remembered to bring a bottle of water, because oh man, water sells out fast at this event.

March – Solo to Hiroshima

In March I took a solo trip to Hiroshima, stopping in Kobe, Okayama, Naoshima, and Okunoshima along the way. Going by local train was absolutely the slowest way of travelling but it was a wonderful experience that tested my own travel skills and helped me learn new things.

April – Hanami Forever

Cherry blossoms are one of the most characteristic images of Japan, and a tourist magnet… for good reason. Despite my skepticism of anything with so much hype surrounding it, cherry blossoms are just as magical as their reputation would lead you to believe. I spent the beginning of April seeing as many as I could, whether that be in the beautiful daylight of Takaoka park or on a cold evening huddled under the trees.

May – Yosakoi, Yosakoi

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I joined a Yosakoi team in October, and every week, two nights a week, went to practice. After months of practice, May was when I first performed with my team and fell completely in love with Yosakoi.

June –  No Rice No Life

June was the second annual International Rice Planting competition, the most fun I have ever had standing in mud. We joined teams and planted a field of rice the old school way (they have machines for that stuff now!) and were judged for accuracy, speed, and overall positivity.

July – Toyama and beyond

July (and June too, really) was the month of sad goodbyes, but more on that later. In July my sister came to Japan and we spent a few weeks in Toyama before embarking on a final hurrah around the country.

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Adventure 18 Day Three | Miyajima Magic

Tuesday

I love hostels but getting up early is always so awkward knowing you’re bothering people. Climbing down from the top bunk on a noisy ladder is going to wake someone up, no matter how hard you try. Luckily I’m a really deep sleeper so this never bothers me, but for others all I can do is be as quiet as possible.

I walked to the station and caught the 7:50 train from that got me to Iwakuni station at 8:43. I didn’t use my Seishun 18 Kippu this day because it the fare to these places was pretty cheap and I needed to save my days on the ticket for later. From there I took a bus and got to the Kintai bridge around 9:15 or so. The bridge is really cool! The big wooden arches look beautiful against the river. It’s actually really hard to walk across, because the steps get bigger and smaller and all blend into each other.

Iwakuni itself was absolutely beautiful! I was there just on the verge of the cherry blossoms opening, so I didn’t get to see them in all their glory. But the half-opened buds were still pretty. The gardens are large and peaceful, particularly so because early in the morning there was hardly anyone there. I walked around for a little, feeling very calm and at ease in my surroundings.

I took the tiny lift up that brought us to a forest walkway and the castle on the top of the mountain. The top of the castle looks out over the bridge, river, and town. I walked around the castle a little bit and ate some breakfast sitting at one of the little stone picnic tables.

Instead of putting effort into figuring out the return buses to Iwakuni station, I just walked about fifteen minutes to a tiny closer station that was oddly positioned on the top of steep hill. I got the 10:50 and arrived in at Miyajimaguchi station at 11:33. I wasn’t sure if I would have to wait long in line for the ferry but since Miyajima is such a popular destination the ferries are huge and run every ten or fifteen minutes. I just bought my ticket and walked on! Easier than catching any bus I’ve ever caught, haha. I got there at the perfect time to see Itsukushima shrine at high tide, around 12:30!

I walked around taking pictures, offering to take pictures of other people, and asking people to take pictures of me. At one point I was taking a picture of something and an older man came up to me and told me I was in the wrong spot to take pictures and that he had a better spot to take pictures from. So he brought me over to another area and took my picture, which is the photo below.

I wandered around a bit up towards the gardens where I found a nice little spot by the river to eat the food I brought. I didn’t realize Miyajima had so many deer, but there were a bunch winding their way around tourists and looking for food. As I was eating a deer came up to me and started nudging me trying to get food, but all I had left was a banana. I wasn’t sure if deer like banana but I broke off a piece and held it out, which the deer picked up and then dropped on the ground. So there was my answer.

I wandered up through the trees and ended up at the lift to the top of Mount Misen. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go all way to the top but I figured it was a good way to spend the afternoon. There’s two lifts, the first is like a ski lift but much smaller and the second was a standing lift with windows all around that lets you see the mountains and sea as it ascends.

At the top of the lift it was a half hour climb to the very top of the mountain. The climb itself wasn’t difficult but a little tricky because of the uneven ground and trying to pass people in tight spaces as they came down the mountain. There’s an observation building at the top that I hung out for in a bit, sitting on big raised platform on the first level contemplating a nap. Afterwards when I made my way back down to the lift I was really tired, partly because of the climb but mostly from not sleeping. I had planned to walk down but I realized that although it was doable it would take almost two hours and I decided to just take the lift back.

When I reached the bottom it was around 5:00 and I searched around to find somewhere to eat. Sadly this is apparently the time when everything is closed, but I found an open Okonomiyaki shop that looked good. I’d like to say I loved the okonomiyaki but it pales in comparison to the night before. But, all in all, a nice restaurant and a nice break from the day.

I took the ferry and then the train back to Hiroshima station, getting back to my hostel around 8:00. I attempted some studying which did not go well, and finally went to bed.

 

A Sunday in Nagoya

Although it’s the fourth biggest city in Japan, Nagoya always feels incredibly peaceful to me. Even on the weekend and in some fairly popular tourist spots. It’s a nice three and a half hour drive by bus from Toyama, winding through the Japanese alps. I’m a big fan of sleeping on buses, and that plus Nagoya’s laid-back atmosphere means it’s a nice weekend (or even day) trip. A few weeks ago I went to Nagoya and ended up spending the Sunday by myself. I didn’t have much of a solid plan, but I wandered around and went to Ohsu Kannon, the science museum, and the castle. Not bad for a Sunday. Although I like traveling with friends, spending time alone in a city like Nagoya can be a nice escape.   _DSC0213 _DSC0214 _DSC0219 _DSC0221 _DSC0270 _DSC0228 _DSC0241 _DSC0257 _DSC0288 _DSC0306

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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