November 30, 2010

Coffee or Tea?

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:09 am

About a month ago, I suddenly started seeing this drink everywhere. But what is it? Surely they didn’t put espresso into tea? By the way, at the bottom it says “with milk.” When I asked for my friend’s opinion about whether the drink is coffee or tea based, she said ” It’s an abomination. You never put milk in espresso.”

espresso tea

Do you want the answer? Ok, it's tea. I think they used the word espresso to get across that it's strong tea, or high in caffeine of something.

If you saw this canned beverage, what would you guess it is?

November 29, 2010

Horikawa Pleasure Boats

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:33 am

If you visit the castle, your next stop will most likely be the Horikawa boat tour. It takes you around the moat of the castle and the rivers running nearby. The boat goes under some low bridges and at several points, it is necessary for the roof of the boat to be lowered so the boat doesn’t hit these bridges. Everyone in the boat has to duck down to avoid being smacked by the roof.


One of the boats. I've heard that in the winter they have heaters on the boats so you can still take a boat ride in the lap of luxury.

under the bridge

Going under s bridge. I don't think this bridge was short enough for them to lower the roof of the boat.


I tried really hard to remember the name of this bird, but I just couldn't keep the name in my short term memory, try as I might.


This is a bird I know. It's a crane.

boat go

Bye bye boat!

November 26, 2010

Matsue Castle

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:04 am

Matsue castle was first completed in 1611. It is one of the few castles in Japan that is still built of wood and not reconstructed as concrete. But it is not the original construction. It underwent vast renovations in the 1950s.


Path leading up to the castle

Matsue Castle

Matsue castle, in all its glory.


Kinshachi are mythical fish put on the roof of castles to protect the castle from fire.

View from the castle

Looking out from the top of the castle. There's a legal limit to how tall buildings can be built in the city of Matsue so that the castle can always tower over the city.


Another view looking out from the castle. The lake is Lake Shinji, which is famous for the shijimi clams that are fished from its waters.

November 25, 2010

Hinomisaki Lighthouse

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 11:40 pm

Not too far from the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine is Hinomisaki, a cape with a terrific lighthouse.


Looking out from Hinomisaki Cape into the Japan sea.

dried squid

Dried squid, the famous food of Hinomisaki, according the the store's sign.


Weird blowfish lamp? I guess. Not really sure what this is.


Hinomisaki Lighthouse. We got there too late to go in, but the cape itself was so nice that we didn't care one bit.


Doesn't this look so peaceful?


On the way back, still looking out into the sea.

Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 5:19 am

A few weeks ago, while traveling, I met a Japanese person who knew nothing about the prefecture I live in. And she asked me, “What’s famous about that place?” My best answer: the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine. During the 10th month, all the Shinto gods gather at this very shrine.  (I say 10th month instead of October because I’ve heard conflicting information about whether this means the 10th month of the Gregorian calendar or the Lunar calendar. ) In other parts of Japan, this month is called the month without gods (神無月), but around here, it is known as the month with gods (神有月). Why do the gods all converge on this one location you ask? Why, to decide who will marry who of course! At the shrine, they sell charms to give you good luck with marital bonds(縁結びお守り).  The most famous part of the shrine is under construction from now until 2015, so I was unable to photograph that. But I got some pictures of other cool parts.

Izumo Taisha gate

The gate at the front of the shrine. I like the person taking a funny picture by the gate.

hand washing

Gotta wash your hands when you go to the shrine. Young and old alike.


A famous view of Izumo Taisha Shrine. This buidling is called Kaguraden.In the background, you can see someone trying to toss a coin into the rope. If you can get a coin to stick in the rope, it's said to be lucky.


A little closer view of the rope. It's called a Shimenawa and it's said to ward away evil spirits. This is the largest one in Japan. It is 13.5 or 44 ft meters long and weighs 5 tons.

November 23, 2010

Lunch @ Souan

Filed under: Cuisine, Food — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 9:31 am

A few weeks ago, I went to a very fancy Japanese style lunch with my supervisor and co-worker on our day off. We went to a little ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) that had a restaurant attached to it. To stay at the inn or go for dinner is quite expensive, but just going for lunch isn’t too pricey. They only offered lunch sets. You chose the cheaper set, the more expensive set or the super expensive set and you had to e at whatever came with it. We chose the cheapest set, which was about $13 US.


Walking through the grounds of the inn to get to the restaurant.


We had to wait a few minutes before being seating in the waiting room and these cute fellows were sitting above the fireplace.

set lunch

Our lunch. It came with various traditional foods and some less traditional foods. Everything was delicious!


The view as we left the restaurant. The leaves were just starting to turn colors when we went.

November 9, 2010

Riding the City Bus

Filed under: Inaka Life, seikatsu — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 5:07 am

When there came a time when I wanted to go someplace other than work or the supermarket and I was still car-less, I had to learn the ropes of riding our local bus lines. (I now have a car, but more on that some other time.) Technically, I work in the public transportation department at city hall. (International Exchange and Public Transportation were both such small departments that they lumped us together.) In fact, the one person in charge of all public transportation for my city sits on the desk next to mine. But, when I asked about bus services from my apartment to city hall soon after arriving, he was unable to tell me if any bus goes between those two locations (Answer: it does, but only about 4 times a day in each direction.)

The town buses are often seen barring a sign that says “School Bus.” School buses are not very common in Japan. By law, elementary school students must have a school within walking distance of where they live. For a rural town like mine dealing with a shrinking population, this means schools that used to have 80 kids are teaching 10 kids, sometimes even less. Towns are struggling to figure out a sustainable way to deal with unercrowded schools and one solution is bussing kids to larger schools. This allows the town to hire less teachers and convert their unused school buildings into senior centers or nursing homes. (A shrinking population is an aging population!)

When you take the bus during the day (i.e. not right before or right after school), most of your fellow riders will be old folks, if there are any fellow riders. On the day I took this pictures, the bus was packed! I mean, almost 1/3 of the seats were taken. I have never seen so many people on the city bus, before or since.

Bus comes

The bus is here! It's quite flashy with the town colors and town motto splashed along the side.


Boarding the bus. As I said, old people. Although to be fair, this bus stop is in front of a hospital. 

back of the bus

The back of the bus. It's not as popular as I remember it was in elementary school.

November 8, 2010

Tsunoshima Island

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 2:10 am

Last week I was away and unable to post anything. Next week, I will be gone a again, so I guess November is becoming the month where I get very behind on this blog. So, apologies for not keeping up with everything. I will do my best to keep posting when I go away next week as I think I will have fairly regular internet access, so assuming I have time, I can update the blog. Now, on to business!

Continuing my posts about my trip to Yamaguchi prefecture, I give you this post about Tsunoshima island(角島). The island is technically part of Shimonoseki city(下関市), the westernmost city on Honshu, Japan’s main island. But before 2005 Tsunoshima was just part of a small town about 30 minutes North of Shimonoseki city by car. In 2005, that town, along with several others was gobbled up to become part of the city of Shimonoseki. But this little island is nowhere near downtown.

Tsunoshima Ohashi

The bridge to Tsunoshima, called Tsunoshima Ohashi (角島大橋 lit. Tsunoshima Big Bridge).

view of tsunoshima

Another view of the bridge that gives a better idea of the size of the island.

tsunoshima beach

Doesn't the beach look nice? Too bad it was too cold to swim...

It seems that Tsunoshima is really famous for only one thing: it’s lighthouse. It was built on Yume-ga-saki (夢ヶ崎), the cape of dreams, and looks at over the Sea of Japan towards South Korea. In fact, in addition to the swarms of Japanese tourists crowding the lighthouse, we saw a group of Korean tourists riding bicycles around the island. It isn’t too difficult to get to Shimonoseki from Pusan (sometimes written as Busan), South Korea. There’s a boat that goes direct everyday.

tsunoshima lighthouse

The Tsunoshima lighthouse was completed in 1876. It is made of stone and is one of only 2 painted lighthouses in Japan.

The man responsible for the lighthouse is one Richard Henry Brunton, born in Scotland. After working in the lighthouse business on the British isles, he was employed by the Japanese government to help them get their western style lighthouse building off the ground. He is sometimes referred to as “The Father of Japanese Lighthouses,” or in Japanese as “The Father of Lighthouses” (灯台の父).


A likeness of Mr. Brunton, who is alleged to have helped build a whopping 26 lighthouses in Japan! Judging from this statue, he also had good posture.

view from lighthouse

A view looking out from the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse is one of the top 50 lighthouses in Japan, which were selected through a campaign run by the Japan Coast Guard, but it does not fall into the top 100 lighthouses in the world, selected by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities. 😦


Tourists. There were a lot of them. Japan is a wee bit crowded.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.