My memories of Japan will all be graced with images of trees covered in pink and white cherry blossoms, sakura in Japanese. We were so lucky to visit at this time and in a year when the blossoms are remarkably pretty and long-lasting.
Our first few days in Tokyo, we delighted in seeing any tree with pink buds and maybe a few open flowers. We did not know what awaited us. As we traveled south to Hiroshima and then north to Osaka and Tsuruga, the town where Max works teaching English, we found ourselves in a surge of sakura.
The blossom-laden trees are everywhere – in the forests on the hillsides, in the middle of an empty field, in private yards, in long rows bordering streets, rivers and canals, around temples and in city parks. The sight of these magnificent trees can stop you in your tracks and lead you to take hundreds of pictures. They are simple beautiful.
Tree at Himeji Castle
Kehi Jingu Shrine Tsuruga
Kehi Jingu Shrine Tsuruga
Street in Tsuruga
Temple in Tsuruga
Todai-ji Temple, Nara
Sakura growing from tree trunk
Ken and Max, Naoshima
Un-typical tourists, my guys, Nara
I did not know that the sakura is Japan’s national flower. Though it only lasts about two weeks, to the people of Japan this little blossom is full of symbolism. It embodies the beauty of life and how quickly it fades and dies, it urges us to make the most of our lives and to be happy. Since the spring blossom coincides with the new fiscal and school years in Japan, it also stands for renewal.
Japan celebrates sakura with Hanami or blossom-viewing parties. Families, friends and coworkers gather in parks under the blooming trees. They cover the ground in blue tarps to sit on. They bring picnics, barbecues, beer and sake, they even order take-out pizza. They party during the day and into the evening when the trees in the parks and on temple grounds are illuminated, creating a magical atmosphere of soft, muted hues. Even in cold weather, these spaces are full of people admiring the trees and perhaps pondering the meaning of life.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto
People celebrating Hanami, Tsuruga
In Japan, the konbini is omnipresent. On this trip, it provided us with meals, beer and snacks. If we’d needed, we could have gotten wine, umbrellas, lottery tickets, cigarettes, a white dress shirt or tooth paste. Manga porn is on offer along with all the other magazines. It’s also where we discovered the strawberry and whipped cream sandwich – which we didn’t try. We relied on it for our travel-sustaining coffee.
The konbini is a convenience store on steroids, the ultimate multi-service store. Continue reading The Konbini – your ally in Japan
Last night, Ken and I went out to supper with a few of Max’s English teacher friends. One of them, Lilly, asked me what I would like to take home to Canada from Japan – either an object or a concept. What a great question. After thinking over my answer, I chose this: how the Japanese handle the trash they generate while away from home. Continue reading It’s different in Japan…
I wonder how well-known the city of Nara is amongst those planning a visit to Japan. I first heard about it following Max’s trip here in 2008. He had delightful stories about feeding the Sika deer that roam freely through Nara Park. He told us it was a must-see during our trip. We didn’t need much convincing. Continue reading Deer, deer, in Nara
Sometimes, luck yields the best experiences. On our first night in Hiroshima, we looked for a restaurant by walking along the main street near our rented house in a residential neighbourhood. Several blocks from home, I looked through the window of a small narrow restaurant and made eye contact with the chef, to the surprise of both of us. The place looked inviting but we walked a few more blocks before deciding to go back and have supper there. Continue reading Finding the best restaurant in Hiroshima
I really enjoyed Hiroshima. It’s a friendly, active town, although it’s a city of over a million people. Most tourists come here on a sort of pilgrimage to the site where an atomic bomb was used for the first time against humankind on August 6, 1945.
That’s the reason we came, too. Patrick, Ken and I spent the better part of a day exploring Peace Memorial Park. Continue reading Hiroshima
If you find yourself in Tokyo in the company of geeks, you’ll wind up in Akihabara. Our sons, Max and Patrick, and Max’s partner Aubrie are geeks. Going to Akihabara was a no-brainer. Of course, Mom knows her sons and daughter-in-law. I had booked an apartment just a short walk from this geek’s Mecca. Continue reading Akihabara – Electric Town