Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Temple, Some Tea and Fishing

September 4, 2010

We went on a day trip to Uji, a town just 15 minutes outside of Kyoto. When we left on Saturday morning, the forecast said it would be very hot. It was great because my friends are relaxed about sightseeing, so we spent half of our time in air conditioned restaurants, shops, tea houses and museums and the other half visiting sights.
When we arrived, we got lunch and hung out in an air conditioned restaurant. I had cold soba noodles, pickles, rice, seaweed and vegetables.
We visited Byodoin Temple, which is featured on the back of the 10 yen coin (about a dime).
Julian, Yumi, Lauren and me

Uji is also famous for green tea. After hanging out in the sun for a while, we decided to go to a beautiful tea shop and eat green tea shaved ice and ice cream with azuki bean.

Yumi and Julian

One of the main reasons we went to Uji was to see their traditional and unusual way of fishing. It's called Ukai. We bought tickets for a riverboat and walked around.
Shinya met up with us
The cormorants

When it got dark, 3 people lit a fire and got in a boat. The fire helps attract fish .
They put a metal ring around the cormorant's neck which is attached to rope. There were 5 or 6 comorants. They put the birds in the water. The birds dove in to try to catch fish.
It takes a lot of skill to keep their ropes from tangling. They were darting every which way. The metal ring prevents the birds from swallowing the fish they catch. The fisherman takes the bird out of the river and takes the fish from the bird and puts the bird back in the water again.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First Day of School

Happy Birthday Dad! Hope you had a great day!

Today is also the first day of the second semester of school. All across Japan, students are going back to school. It's the start of my contract as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) and marks the beginning of my sixth year in Japan.

Since I haven't been very good about posting blogs, I thought I would shift this to more of a photo blog. Below are some pictures of my first day back at Masui Junior High School. I've been going to this school since I arrived in Japan.
Opening ceremony in the gym. The students line-up before it starts. At the beginning and end of each semester there is an opening and closing ceremony.
The principal, Mr. Yoshida, gave awards to the students.
I went to lunch with one of the English teachers, Ms. Iwai. We went to a homemade soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurant. I had the cold buckwheat noodle soup with shrimp tempura, grated radish, seaweed and sprouts. Perfect for a very, very, very hot day.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Fighting Diakon Bus Tour

April 9, 2010

May 16th and 17th, 2009

In Japan, people work hard and play hard. Since, vacations are usually limited to just two or three days, bus tour packages are very popular. Usually bus tours take people to many places and pack-in as much as possible. It’s inexpensive and everything is planned out for you. It’s a very appealing option especially with so little time for vacation.

Julian and Yumi put together a group tour to Wakayama to visit Urashima Onsen (hot spring). They reserved an entire bus and tour for two days and one night just for our 40 friends. Wakayama is the peninsula below Osaka. It’s famous for having wonderful onsens, beaches, mountains, the tallest waterfall in Japan, Japanese plums, and beautiful rural areas. Many places in Wakayama are not accessible without a car, so the bus tour made it easier for us to see a lot of places.

We met at the bus station early in the morning. Prior to the trip, Julian had to select a name for our group. Written on our bus kiosk was “だいこんファイト!" - "Daikon Fighto”. A daikon is a Japanese radish and fight-o, well that’s an English word that we often hear our Japanese friends and students yelling when they are playing sports or trying to overcome some sort of obstacle - “fighto, fighto”.

There is a story behind the fighting daikon. It’s not just some random words that Julian made up. In the little city of Aioi, which is about 20 minutes west of Himeji, there was a little baby daikon that was only a seedling. The daikon couldn’t grow, but it kept fighting to grow...fighto, fighto! Finally the daikon came up through a crack in the pavement. It fought hard and it survived! It didn’t give up! It’s an inspirational daikon. Well, that’s how our name for our tour group came to be, because our trip was about fighting to have a good vacation. If you ever visit Aioi, you will see a daikon character around city hall and other places. It’s now a symbol of their city. It also set the tone for a fun and awesome trip!

Side note, I just read on another blog that the daikon was "decapitated" and that the news of it spread throughout Japan. You can read about it by clicking on this other person's blog.

Back to our trip...our first stop was Shirasaki Ocean Park, which had beautiful white rocks and ocean views.

Next stop Shirahama and their beautiful cliff side views and a famous spot for suicide. The sign says that if you are considering jumping, please call this hot-line.

We ate Japanese plum ice cream.

Our bus was super deluxe! It was equipped with karaoke. They didn’t have many English songs, but we tried to sing as many as we could, the Carpenters, Beatles, etc. Yumi and Julian, our hosts belting out some classics.

Our next stop was a beautiful expanse of beach with lots of rocks protruding out of the ground called, Hashi Kuiiwa.

We finally made it to our hotel.

The hotel was on a little island, which was about a five minute ferry ride in this cute turtle. The reason for the turtle is because the name of the island is after a famous Japanese fairy tale called, Urashima Taro. It's about a boy who saves a turtle from getting battered by a bunch of thug kids. So, the turtle takes the boy to a magical land under the sea...if you want to read about the rest of the story, click this link.

Everything had turtles on it, including our yukatas (cotton kimonos).

The hotel was on the side of a mountain/cliff. As we walked to the onsens around the hotel, we walked through dug out tunnels and caves and had cliff views of the ocean as we relaxed in the hot water. There were 8 or 9 hot baths that we could visit.

We visited the tallest waterfall in Japan, Nachi Taki, and a shrine.

We went to a beautiful old road called, Kumanokodo (World Heritage Listed pilgrimage walk).

We also went to an ume factory (Japanese plum) factory. They had many types of pickles, snacks and plum wines, and a kamobuko (fish cake) factory.

Finally, we went to a shoyu factory (soy sauce). Below is a picture of the entire group.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shikoku Camping Part 4 - Toyo Beach Camping

December 21, 2009

May 6th, 7th and 8th, 2009

We took a train east to Tokushima and caught another train south to the beaches and surfing area of Kochi. We found a wonderful grassy campsite next to the beach.

View from our tent.

Starting from the left, a small market with local foods, the tall building in the middle is a hotel near the campsite and the next building is the campsite office and our tents on the far right.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t stop raining, We held out through Thursday night and decided it was time to go home. Friday morning when we got up, it became sunny, but I think we were ready to get back to our own beds.

The campsite has rental equipment, nice bathrooms, and a small local food store. There is a tiny town with a small market that's about a 10 minute walk from the campsite.

Getting There: Take a JR train to Kaifu. Then you must change to a private train line called Agasakaigan-Railroad. Go to the last stop of Kannoura. We took a 10 minute bus ride to the campsite from the train station.

Campsite: 白浜キャンプ場 - Shirahama Camp-jo in Toyo
Phone number: 088-729-2346
Cost: 600yen per/site
Website: Toyo Campsite - Shirahama Beach

View Larger Map