Hanami

Adventure 18 Day Six | Himeji Hanami

Friday

We woke up to grey skies and rain. The hostel I stayed at had put me in a small female building that almost felt like an apartment – with a big open space with bunkbeds, a second story and a small living room area and kitchen. I chatted with the two girls that were there, both who were doing working holidays in Japan. They were very sweet and it was great to meet them!

I got the castle around nine, umbrella in hand. The grounds were full of food and game stands being set up but the mood was a little dampened due to the rain. The castle itself is usually the main attraction, but during cherry blossom season the approach itself was half of the excitement. As I got closer through a series of small buildings and long walls more and more blossoms appeared, making the castle prettier with each step. Forgive me for gushing, but it was nothing short of magical.  It feels like a dream world to walk around the white castle in a sea of pink blossoms.

It’s no wonder that Himeji castle gets so much attention – it really is beautiful. It’s tall and majestic looking with bright white walls, a dark roof, and a large expanse of smaller buildings and walls around it. It’s really nice to walk around inside too – the huge rooms let in light and the dark wood feels nice to walk on in socks. Himeji castle plus the connected buildings also has the most amount of information on display that I’ve seen in a castle – you could easily spend an hour just wandering around and reading.

I left the castle around 11:30 went looking for the restaurant I wanted to try – Menme (Tripadvisor, you did not disappoint!). I got there just as they were opening and was able to sit right at the counter to watch them process. The staff is so friendly and a seamless noodle making team. When my noodles arrived they were just as great as I hoped they’d be – fresh, thick, and the perfect texture.

Went to Menme for lunch! So good. Sat at the counter and and saw them making the noodles. 👌👌

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After the meal I headed over to the station which was my final tourist stop on my Seishun 18 trip. I had been really strict with spending during my trip but I shelled out for some really nice omiyage. Everyone always appreciates any type of omiyage but it feels good to give something really nice (and probably better tasting). So with my omiyage and luggage I caught yet another local train to spend a few days in Shiga.

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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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.

Beautiful Tree Blossoms at Osaka Castle

Cherry Blossom viewing season doesn’t last for long, with each area holding about two weeks of full flowers. Last week the Toyama trees were in full bloom (and still are in some areas) making me cross my fingers that we would be lucky to catch Osaka’s season. Osaka Castle Park is reportedly home to almost 5000 cherry trees, which at their peek would turn the entire area into a sea of soft pink and white petals. It turns out this weekend was the tail end of the season, with most trees still holding on to some blossoms but mostly having grown their green leaves for the summer.
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Then ten minute walk up to the castle turned into an hour when we passed through a large area of plum trees with a mix of big purple flowers, some still as buds. I’ve never seen anything like them, and although they aren’t the famous Cherry Blossoms, I found them just as pretty.
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My last visit to Osaka Castle was in the middle of winter, meaning the park and castle were fairly deserted. This time it was in it’s full spring boom, and it was really nice to see colour in the trees and to people watch a little. Just outside the entrance to the castle was a cherry tree full in bloom, attracting a lot of photos and prayers tied to the branches.
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