27 Dec 2016

Haneda

We have always used Narita Airport when we visit Japan, but we used Haneda Airport this time. Haneda Airport has international and domestic airports, and handles almost all domestic flights to and from Tokyo. It was short access from Tokyo Station, but needed to transfer to the monorail to the Airport. We wanted to stay at hotels near the terminal, but unfortunately the rooms were fully booked. So we booked another hotel in Haneda but the shuttle bus service to the hotel was less compared with Narita's. It was a good hotel, but the last room we could book one way or another was ridiculously small... So we couldn't have a nice impression about using Haneda Airport, sadly.

 

We'd been disappointing around too much. So we pulled ourselves together and explored around the hotel. Luckily we found a nice book café and relaxed there for a while. I ordered a pancake since we hadn't had a lunch. It was so soft and yummy.


Near the hotel, there was an inari shrine and we saw many overlapped red torii gates and symbolic fox statues. Speaking of the overlapped red tori, the Fushimi Inari in Kyoto is famous. The number of torii gates depends on a donation by a Japanese business and each torii has a company's name who donated.



Today's Sky

It was not a white Christmas here (as usual), and it has been a quiet holiday around here. :)


22 Dec 2016

Sendai

Wherever you are, home is where you make it. That's true. Because now I feel relief when I came back to our home in the UK as well. However if I go back to Sendai where I had lived for about 40 years, I am reminded of the nostalgic olden days. Familiar sight always welcomes me and makes me feel relief. When I was a student, in 20's and 30's, the Sendai Station was the place I walked past almost every day. Even if I felt unpleasant, sad, happy and anxious, I looked on this building from a biased viewpoint with a different feeling. There is nothing immutable, but the fact remains that it's my hometown.


While I was in Sendai, I visited some nostalgic places, ate nostalgic yummy food and enjoyed life as if I got something back while I was absent there. I don't know when I will go back there next time, but my spiritual hometown is always there.


Today's Sky


15 Dec 2016

Aquarium

We went to the Sendai Uminomori Aquarium whilst we were in Sendai. It's a new facility which is located in the port area of Sendai, which was the former Matsushima Marinepia Aquarium. I am an aquarium lover, so I was interested in this new one in my hometown.
 

It's a reasonably compact facility, but a lot of things makes you enjoy it. Especially the dolphin and sea lion show I enjoyed. Though I felt a bit sorry for them because the pool looked small...


It wasn't so busy because it was a weekday morning. We were fascinated by the impression of the world under the water.






11 Dec 2016

Hirosaki, Aomori (3/3)

It's nice to visit a new place. I think Hirosaki is an interesting city. Once it used to have the third biggest population in the Tohoku area (1890), following Sendai and Morioka. But now it has preserved its tradition quietly. It's not a big tourist city like Tokyo or Kyoto, but it's very compact city to walk and look around.


We explored the city and walked along a long street. It was morning and very quiet. On both sides of the street there are a lot of Buddhist temples. And at the end of the street, there is the beautiful gate of Chōshō-ji temple which was built in 1528.


Also the view of grand Mount Iwaki was so beautiful.


Aomori is famous for its apples, the apple on the post box makes you smile:) 


Hirosaki is a little off from Aomori city, you need to take a train to get there from Shin-Aomori station and it takes about an hour. The day before we visited Hirosaki, the big mouse brought with us a cold wave and still there was snow on ground. We enjoyed the trip to Hirosaki very much.


Today's Sky


9 Dec 2016

Hirosaki Neputa (2/3)

Tohoku is an area in the northern Japan, consisting of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. And each prefecture has a famous festival. My hometown Sendai, Miyagi has the 'Sendai Tanabata (Star Festival)', as a traditional event that dates back to the era of Date Masamune (1567-1636), the first lord of Sendai Domain. During the festival, the city centre is filled with colourful decorations. This festival is one of the most peaceful festivals among those 6 prefectures I think. Because decorations aren't mobile, just hanging above the shopping streets and so on, and people walk under the paper decorations.

I originally come from Tohoku, but I've never seen much of other Tohoku festivals. So when we decided to travel in Aomori, I was excited about their gigantic floats of their Nebuta/Neputa festival. There are major three float festivals in Aomori prefecture; Aomori Nebuta, Hirosaki Neputa and Goshogawara Tachineputa. Each "Nebuta/Neputa" is a slightly different shape, but refers to the float of a brave warrior-figure which is carried through the city centre. It was autumn, but some floats are displayed at some facilities.


We visited the "Neputa Village" which is a museum about this festival and also introduces Aomori's cultures. We could enjoy seeing the Neputa floats and local handcrafts, listening to drum and shamisen music, playing with old-fashioned toys and tasting food. There is also a Japanese garden as well. The Neputa floats were massive. They were amazingly big. It was good that the staff members explained about Neputa floats in English too:) The biggest one is over nine metres, and will parade through the town dodging electric wire and signboard.





4 Dec 2016

The Customer Is Always Right

There is a lovely café. When this café was opened, we often went there to have a lunch, once or twice a week. It was one of our joys to sit at a nice table by the window, eating a yummy lunch, and reading a newspaper or magazine while drinking a cup of coffee. It was a good place not many people knew about at first. But since their service is so good, it spread through word of mouth and became busier and busier. I wouldn't say we were the most loyal customers, but I am sure we were good customers, at least.

We went to our local favourite café after a few months. We knew it was busy, but luckily one four-seat table was available which we were willing to sit at. We were supposed to spend a relaxing time as usual. When we put our bag on a chair, a staff member came bringing a menu. But she suggested us to move to another two-seat table, just in case a group would come. It's understandable what she wants to say, but that was not reserved. The two-seat table is not spacious, and not enough space for reading newspaper/magazine. We already had an experience with it. It's good to have a coffee, but we can't be relaxed. In fact, they have two rooms with some more tables, and the other room was empty with the door closed, but they weren't willing to use it. I don't know why, maybe it's for saving energy, inconvenient for work, or just keeping for a special event, but a owner usually made us use it there when it's busy, and turned the heating on during a winter. But this time, when we asked to use there, the staff said it's too cold there meaning 'no' by insinuation in a roundabout way.

We left the café disappointedly, because we just wanted to relax with reading a newspaper. Even though there was a table and space, if we can't use it, it's ridiculous. We felt unpleasant.

30 Nov 2016

Visit to Hirosaki (1/3)

When we went back to Japan, we travelled to Aomori prefecture, in northern Japan. Aomori literally means blue forest, although it could possibly be translated as "green forest". I've been to Towada Lake which is located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, but never been to proper cities in Aomori. Since a bullet train line has been extended to Hokkaido via Aomori, we decided to visit Hirosaki-city, in Aomori.




Hirosaki Castle was built in 1611. It's famous for its three-story castle tower in the beautiful cherry blossom season. When we visited there, autumn colours, especially red leaves, were still beautiful.


The castle's original five-story keep burnt down in 1627 after being struck by lightning. The present three-story keep was built in 1810. It used to stand on the stone base on the corner, but now, it's on the ground. Engineers have moved a 400-year-old castle tower so that repairs can be carried out on the stone base of the tower. It's an amazing skill.

Inside the castle tower, there are a few displays, explaining how they moved this tower, rather than the history of the castle. The castle standing on the ground looked smaller than it used to be. I expected it, but it was disappointingly small, unfortunately... However, you can enjoy the layout, with a moat as well as steep and narrow stairs inside, as a feature of what a Japanese castle is like. I wasn't impressed by the castle tower itself very much, but I thought the gates and turrets were worth seein. The castle is located in the Hirosaki Park, and you can see the nice view of Mount Iwaki as well.





Aomori is famous for its apples. We didn't forget to eat apple cake and drink apple juice. I had an apple hot juice with them. :)


26 Nov 2016

Today's Sky

The view from a platform was fantastic! :)
 

24 Nov 2016

Yuriage

While we stayed in Sendai, there was a quite strong earthquake in the morning. I jumped up from the bed and urged the big mouse to evacuate to the narrow space. It wasn't the first time for him, but the situation of shaking of a wooden house is different from tall buildings. It was the earthquake originating from the coastal Miyagi prefecture, but there was no fear of a tsunami with it. It brought back awful memories. Nowadays, earthquakes happen all around the world. Perhaps it isn't an exaggeration to say that everyone is a victim of earthquake or natural disasters.

We visited Yuriage district, Natori city, Miyagi, where was flatland and was hit by the catastrophic tsunami in 2011. Since I moved to the UK, it was the first time for me to visit the seaside after the Great East Japan Earthquake. I could have visited there earlier, but I felt something scared. Now, rubbles and mud were completely cleaned up, but still nothing was around there. And still you can see some damaged foundation stones of house.


There is a hill, just 700 meters from the coast, with an elevation of 6.3 meters. On March 11, 2011, a 8.4-meter tsunami from the earthquake swept over this hill and washed away shrines that were located on top of the hill. Some people evacuated to this hill because this was one of the evacuation areas. Who could have imagined tsunami wave which was higher than this hill would come? Here is flatland and this was one of the highest places around here, but only a handful of people who climbed the tree, held branches, endured cold weather till rescue came, survived.


Now there is a memorial monument near the hill. It was built to demonstrate resolve to restore the damage from the earthquake, in memory of its victims. Even now, people visit here constantly to make a prayer. The top of this tower located in the middle of the mound shows the same heights of tsunami.


Near the monument, an old building remains. It is said some people evacuated to the top of this building and had a narrow escape with being leg‐deep in water. Their fear and coldness with wet body is beyond imagination.


Not only Yuriage, but coastal cities, towns and villages are moving towards the future and achieving reconstruction a bit by bit. But I felt time passed very slowly in that place. They are going to raise the ground level by the sea, but haven't started yet. The Port Morning Market was held in Yuriage on Sundays and holidays. Which boasts a 40-year tradition and reopened in 2013. You can get very fresh fish and other products there. It's good to see it was crowded with many people. I will never forget about that day.