Blogs from Japan, Asia


Asia » Japan » Nagano February 16th 2020

Having enjoyed a day at Suginohara Ski field last year while staying elsewhere, we eagerly sought a longer visit this year (assuming bodily capabilities). The 'bodily capabilities' issue arose about a month before departure as Judy experienced a painful inflamed knee issue which was not getting resolved. Just before departing, Judy confided that she doubted she'd get skis on this year! This year we were joined by one of our children and his family. Adrian had married a Japanese national - Mari - and now have 2 children; Sakura 10 and Jack 7. Though they had visited the snow some years ago for a day, we assumed a prolonged ski holiday would be a novel experience for them. Having Mari help with accommodation turned out to be a blessing. Mari was able to secure accommodation in ... read more
Snow Dump Day
From Restaurant area towards Mt Myoko
Looking down the Gondola route

Asia » Japan » Tokyo » Shinjuku February 10th 2020

The article on MSN Travel Voices featured a young African American woman, traveling in Japan. Here are some of her thoughts and observations: url= I go abroad, I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders to be a good example of a black woman so negative stereotypes don't continue, especially in homogeneous cultures where there is a lack of diversity. The media doesn't exactly portray black people incredibly well, and people watch it and make assumptions about what we're like based on the color of our skin. In some places, they've rarely even seen a black person in real life. I am constantly aware of every move I make when I step outside of the United States. There is not a single moment when I am not c... read more
Where are you from?
What are you?
Tell me the truth!

Asia » Japan » Hokkaido January 17th 2020

Keeping an eye on our recoveries, Furano became a point of relative convalescence interspersed with light snow hiking. P2 felt underdone energy wise, so there would be unfinished snow business after the trip. The last time we were here the temperatures were in the mid thirties, the sun rising at 3:30am. Contrasting it to January, it was crusty snow underfoot and minus 13 to 15 Celsius in the morning. Our bodies were certainly under different stressors. The landscape transforms completely and it’s very relaxing to simply look at in the wintery state. We thought our colds had improved enough to meet 2018’s trip feature, Shingo-san, a café owner, cycle guide, and jack of all trades, as is common in the Hokkaido community. Luckily, the dress code of the cool days had been a covered nose and ... read more
Biei shrine, a power spot with many heart symbols

Asia » Japan » Hokkaido January 14th 2020

We had four full days to play with in Sapporo. Whilst P2 remained under the weather I got my leave pass to head back to the known snow shoe site of the Hokkaido memorial at Nopporo, a safer option to a mountain traverse. Trains to Shinrin-kooen are frequent and rapidly filled up that morning with locals, young and older. Now being an expert at knowing the park entry points, I had the snow shoes on ready to hike Nopporo within fifteen minutes of alighting. Yesterday’s cross country skier tracks (the tracks owners were an older Japanese couple whom I’d met) remained, as well as our messy frozen contribution. Snow was in the forecast though that day, which would likely coat everything. Gaining elevation from the city made a difference to snow depth in Nopporo. After trekking ... read more

Asia » Japan » Yamagata January 5th 2020

Crowds rapidly gathered at the Yohashira shrine near Nawate street as midnight and 2020 approached in Matsumoto. The general hubbub made for an exciting atmosphere, many of those folks stepping up to the gong, right beside the stalls selling a lucky daruma. We’d lazed away a few hours that evening, sorting out our packs after the snow adventures before going the next day, followed by enjoying a buckwheat ramen, Dormy Inns complimentary signature meal for that special evening. The subzero night wouldn’t be complete without a hot soak, and soon I’d be missing the apples bobbing in the onsen that were placed in the tub each morning. Minus 7C and fine weather made for a beautiful start to 2020. Taking the train with the least changes just after 9am, we went first through part of the ... read more
Riverside, Oku-nikkawa
Above Omoshiroyama-kogen
Who's tracks?

Asia » Japan » Nagano » Matsumoto December 31st 2019

With snow shoes in hand, and poles acquired with pre Christmas sales, we were set. Decathlon Spain set us free from needing to rely on gear hire locations for any winter hiking. The snow shoeing bug hit us after two previous winter trips together here, and my natural aversion to skiing/ snow boarding (with its injury risk) plus P2s passion for photo taking lends itself to ‘snow the slow way’. Comparable to such trip costs in NZ, we have come again for a fairly economical holiday ‘fix’! Trawling the snow forecasts across a few sources had informed where we would choose to go. Fast forward to December 2019 post-Christmas, and barely a flake had fallen in parts of Nagano prefecture, where we’d begin. Air NZ again took us to Narita, and the flight, seat choice, and ... read more
Matsumoto castle
Nagano alps from castle
Matsumoto castle at zero degrees

Asia » Japan » Hyogo December 8th 2019

The locals thought we were absolutely mad! It was the wrong season!!!!!! We had tried to go on this excursion in the winter time but alas, it is such an enjoyable local activity that no accommodation was available. What is it? Well its going to an onsen town (some would say the best in Japan) and staying overnight so that you can wander from onsen - hot water bath either inside or outside which are sex segregated and where you soak naked for as long as you like - to onsen between 7am and 11pm. Its a thoroughly relaxing and somewhat hedonistic activity. I have to say that it far more enjoyable when it is cold and even snowing - but we had time at the end of summer school holidays and despite the temperatures being ... read more
yukate robed holiday makers
stork on the light post
closer view of the stork from the road

Asia » Japan » Kyoto November 20th 2019

As we disembark from the bullet train after a remarkably comfortable and smooth 2 hour journey speeding across the 400km from Hakone, we finally set foot in Kyoto - our last stop in Japan. Kyoto used to be the old seat of Japan’s Imperial Court; it is home to ancient emperors, the mysterious world of the Geisha, numerous breathtakingly beautiful temples and shrines and is known as the cultural capital of Japan as well as an internationally renowned center for higher learning. We step into this dazzlingly historical and culturally rich city and into the beautiful sunshine... “Looks like Calais,” says Charlie. He sniffs. “Smells like it too.” As we strolled through the Kyoto streets and along the river Charlie was forced to admit that his first impressions were wrong, but it’s fair to say that ... read more

Asia » Japan » Kanagawa November 17th 2019

Here are the main learning points from our time in Hakone: 1. Japanese/French fusion food is not great. 2. Having an open air hot spring bath is up there with the best experiences in the entire world 3. There is always, ALWAYS more uphill to go Hakone is a national geopark, surrounded by mountains and within the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park centered on Lake Ashi. This means that you can see the mountainsides steaming from the geothermal waters, and that the whole area is known for its onsens - Japanese hot spring baths. Hakone is only 90 minutes outside of Tokyo so is a popular tourist destination, as well as being the go-to weekend getaway for locals. It’s basically the Japanese equivalent of what the Cotswolds is to Londoners, but more hilly and with more ... read more

Asia » Japan » Osaka » Osaka November 17th 2019

Osaka likely has a lot to recommend it but we went for the food. This post is a combination of two trips, one for dinner in Dōtombori and another for lunch and a visit to the seafood market before we flew out of Japan. Osaka’s obsession with food is often summed up with its unofficial slogan “kuidaore” which is usually interpreted to mean “eat till you drop” but actually means to spend so much on food that you go broke. Although quite entertaining, what we saw of Osaka reminded us both a bit of Shinjuku. Interesting but not really our scene. Our evening in Osaka we visited the vibrant and entertaining Dōtombori area. Its name comes from the 400-year-old canal, Dōtombori-gawa, now lined with pedestrian walkways and a riot of illuminated billboards. South of the canal ... read more
Kani Douraku Crab in Osaka
Crab Fat (Tomalley) in Osaka

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