Nagano

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.

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Whiteout Weekend: Snowboarding at Hakuba

While Canada is battling through the polar vortex, Toyama has been relatively mild hovering at around 0 Celsius. Although I’m not one to complain about the lessened need for fleece and heaters, there’s something a little sad about a winter without snow. Over the weekend a group from my area drove to Nagano to spend two epic days at Hakuba ski resort. I haven’t been snowboarding in about 4 years, so I felt a little nervous and shaky on the way up to our first run. By an hour into the first day I remembered the rush you get from gliding down a mountain, and I felt exhilarated from the crisp air.

This is by far the most unique course I’ve ever been on, with multiple paths intersecting and diverging, and with multiple chair lifts and rest stops at various points on the mountain. This turned out to be quite an enhancement on our trip, because we were able to find sections of the mountain that we really enjoyed and repeatedly run them over and over.

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After our first day on the mountain I experienced my first ever Onsen, a public bath. After the initial internal anxious meltdown had passed, my body was beyond grateful I decided to go. There’s no feeling quite like letting your muscles relax in hot water after being beat up by an icy mountain all day.

On our second day on the mountain the weather took a turn for the colder resulting in non-stop snow and freezing winds. We spent most of our time at the top of the mountain, where the snowfall had created heavenly powder that made you feel like you were flying. Of course, this came with the price of snowboarding through the white-out, with snow so thick the path disappeared a few metres in front. Like so many other times in Japan, this place felt incredibly peaceful despite the odds. Wind swirling around me, snow coating my face and goggles, skiers whipping around me, and yet the top of the mountain felt tranquil.

I’ve certainly gained a greater appreciation for Japan’s mountains (which I wouldn’t have guessed possible) and I’m eager to go back for more.

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A chairlift disappearing into the snow.

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From the bottom of a run- thick snow looks like mist.

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On the morning of our first day.

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A clear view of the surrounding mountains.