Japan – Early April
9-10 April 2013, Nikko
We came to Japan in search for cherry blossoms – to be wrapped in a pink universe of flowers and let our minds drift away. Instead we woke up to this! It seems that also in Japan, April is a tricky lady, every other minute she likes to change her dress!
And we went to Nikko, to the mausoleums of the Tokugawa Shoguns, which are sitting in a beautiful cedar forest north of Tokyo.
The guards were happy to see us……
Some of the cedar trees are enormous and the colours are beautiful.
Onsen, Yukata, Sashimi and Fuji-San
A weekend trip to Nishi-izu, 13-14 April 2013
Sakura and Asado
20-21 April 2013, Lake Yamanakako
Finally we found cherry blossoms in Japan, sakura! We went to Lake Yamanakako at the foot of the magnificent Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, the Fuji-San was hidden behind a thick cover of clouds but the cherry blossoms were beautiful, they bloom a bit later here at almost 1000 m above sea level.
In the afternoon it started raining and towards evening the rain turned to wet snow. But this did not stop us from making an argentinian barbeque, asado!
Our photographic impressions from one week of driving through Central Honshu Island, from Tokyo to the Sea of Japan. Route: Matsumoto – Hotaka – Kisa Valley (Narai – Tsumago – Magome) – Takayama – Ogimachi – Ainokura – Kanazawa
24-29 April 2013
HOTAKA – we visited the Dai-o Wasabi Farm in Hotaka just north of Matsumoto, a wonderful place where they are growing the precious wasabi roots in the river bed. You can also sample a wide range of wasabi foods including quite strong wasabi icecream and wasabi beer.
KISO VALLEY – South of Matsumoto we entered the beautiful Kiso Valley with the classical Edo-era villages Narai, Tsumago and Magome. Here we are strolling through Narai early morning.
On our way through the Kiso Valley we passed these beautiful Koinobori – carp shaped flags – for the traditional celebration of the children’s day on 5 May. The flags fluttering in the wind symbolize the carps swimming upstream as an analogue to wishing the children happiness and good fortune in life.
From Magome we walked along the old post-road to Tsumago, a 7.7 km hike through beautiful forest and small villages. Occasionally you are requested to ring a large bell hanging along the path: “Ring the bell hard, against bears!”
Safely arrived in Tsumago, we meandered through the small streets of the old village.
Traditional wooden house in Tsumago.
A small shrine.
Japan is a pleasure to the eye. How can you not fall in love with this country!
TAKAYAMA – From the Kiso Valley we crossed west over the Japanese Central Alps to Takayama, a town of well preserved old houses of rich merchants. Dark wood was the fashion.
OGIMACHI – North of Takayama we visited the village of Ogimachi (Shirakawa-go district) with its beautiful gassho-zukuri houses, a rare type of architecture which is specialized for the very heavy snowfall in the region of the central japanese alps.
AINOKURA – We continued to the village of Ainokura further north to see more of the beautiful gassho-zukuri houses.
Here at around 600 meters altitude they had not even started preparing the rice fields yet. It was close to freezing point at night. In the winter they get many meters of snow.
KANAZAWA – We drove further west to Kanazawa which is almost down at the coast of the Sea of Japan. In Kenroku-en, one of the top three japanese gardens in Japan, we found the most beautiful cherry blossoms!
Kanazawa is a great place to stroll around through the old neighborhoods of the geishas. Some of the old tea houses are still preserved and here they still practice the traditional training of the geishas.
3-6 May 2013
We just finished the Golden Week in Japan, a week of 4 public holidays where all of Japan goes on the move to enjoy the holidays as much as possible with the family and friends. The weather was perfect and so we joined the 127 million Japanese and went out to enjoy!
First we visited the Hokoku-ji temple. The temple is rightfully famous for its beautiful bamboo garden.
Then we visited the temple of Sugimoto-dera, a very old and important buddhist temple which hosts three beautiful statues of the Kannon goddess (no photos).
And finally, we visited the tranquil zen buddhist temple of Engaku-ji, one of the most important zen buddhist temples in Japan.
The monks were out and about. Here a gardening monk.
Offerings of sake and beer to the temple.
We also spent some time walking (and shopping) around Tokyo. Here are a few photographic impressions.