December 21, 2011

Dangyou Falls (壇鏡の滝)

My time to tour around on Dogo was very limited, but I did manage to see the Dangyou falls. We rented a car to get there and while I think it’s possible to get there without a car, even with a car it was a bit of an ordeal. The road was very narrow and I would have been even more spooked trying to ride the steep narrow road up the mountain on a bicycle. With the car we rented, I was constantly afraid of another car coming from the opposite direction. The road is 2-way, but it barely fits one car.

In the end, we made it to the waterfall completely unscathed. And the waterfall was beautiful, so it was worth the trip.

Before going to the waterfall, you are supposed to toss a stone onto one of these gates. It's harder than it looks to get a stone to stay on there!

Towards the waterfall

The sign says that this waterfall is one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.

More pictures after the jump (more…)

December 20, 2011

Off to Oki

Last month, I took a short trip to the Oki islands. (Correction: Waaaaay too short. I only saw the tiniest fraction of all the beautiful spots there are on the islands there.) The Oki islands are roughly 3 hours away from the largest Japanese island of Honshu by ferry. There are 4 islands clustered together. (In addition, there is an island that is disputed between Japan and South Korea. It takes another 3 hours to reach by boat from the Oki islands. It is called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean.)

On this trip, I only went to the largest island, Dogo. The Oki islands are currently working hard to bring more tourists and are promoting the islands as a Geopark.

Even though it was mid-November, we really lucked out with beautiful warm weather. The following pictures are mostly from the ferry ride.

Looking back at Honshu just after the ferry leaves for Oki

On the ferry

More pictures after the jump. (more…)

July 13, 2011

Day Trip to Lantau Island

Lantau island is the largest of Hong Kong’s islands, almost twice as large as Hong Kong island. Most visitors to Hong Kong arrive first in Lantau because the airport is on this island. Hong Kong Disneyland is on Lantau island as well. Most people visiting Lautau island will either be heading to the airport, Disneyland, or the Tian Tan Buddha, allegedly the world”s largest outdoor Buddha.

Until 1997, Lantau island was only accessible by ferry and walking around the Tung Chung area (the end of the line of the MTR train) or the airport area, everything does seem pretty new. During my day trip to Lantau island, I took the MTR to Tung Chung and then took the nearby Ngong Ping Cable car up to the peak. At the top, there is a very fake model of a “traditional Chinese village” (meaning the souvenir shops are supposed to look like Chinese architecture from the outside) that you walk through to get to the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tau Buddha. The cable car is supposed to have gorgeous views, which I was looking forward to, but unfortunately, it was raining so I couldn’t see much.

Like most of Hong Kong, high-rise apartment buildings are the norm on Lantau. This is in Tung Chung, near the MTR station.

Giant outlet mall next to Tung Chung station.

Walking around Lantau in the rain.

Click more to see my cable car ride and the giant buddha.


May 30, 2011

Cheung Chau Island (Part 1)

During my first full day in Hong Kong, my friend took me to one of the outlying islands of Hong Kong, Cheung Chau island (長州). Hong Kong is basically made up of 4 areas: Kowloon and the New Territories on the mainland, Hong Kong Island across the bay, and the Outlying Islands, the other 232 or so islands. Cheung Chau is one of the easier to get to islands and fairly small island, making it easy to go to for a day trip. It mostly functions as a little fishing port. Fishing is the main industry for the 30,000 people who live on (and around) the island. (But “around the island,” I mean that some people live in their boats.) It takes about an hour and 4 USD to get to Cheung Chau from Central port in downtown Hong Kong.

Cheung Chau Port. Unlike Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, this island has no high-rises, making it less overwhelming. But it is by no means laid back. We were swimming through massive crowds all day long.

So many people! Rumor has it that many Hong Kongers get the idea that it might be nice to getaway for a relaxing weekend trip to this island. But with so many people, visiting Cheung Chau is not at all relaxing.

Starfish for sale. I asked my friend if people eat starfish. She told me that they use it to flavor soups.

Click to see more more more pictures! (more…)

April 22, 2011

Sawaike, A Japan Top 100 Pond

Last week, I posted pictures of Ryuzugataki, which was declared one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. Today I have pictures of a pond that was declared one of the top 100 ponds in Japan. Yes, some group really bothered to pick out the top 100 ponds in the country. This is not a joke.The pond is called Sawaike (沢池) and it is a good ways off the beaten path. The road to get there was extremely narrow and a bit frightening. The pond was quite nice though.


My friend looks out over the pond. I can see a house in the background. I can't believe that someone lives there!

April 21, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part 4 – 70% Bloom

Continuing with the Cherry Blossoms. The 7 stages of the blooming cherry blossoms are bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki 5分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki 7分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜). The cherry blossom full bloom that everyone is always clamoring to see only lasts about 2 weeks! Many people plan to travel when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, but it’s hard to predict exactly when they will blossom and the spring season is busy, so good luck getting a hotel room in Kyoto or other major cherry blossom viewing areas during this time.

These pictures were taken during the main event of my town’s cherry blossom festival. They usually have a schedule packed with events, including fireworks and musical performances. This year, they had a very limited schedule because of the earthquake and tsunami in Northeastern Japan. They still lit up the trees at night and had a few food stalls and added one extra event, which they called candle night. They were asking everyone to buy a candle for disaster relief and they placed the candles on the ground in the shape of a heart.

Sakura by the river at night.

Look at those lovely blossoms. Sorry they are a bit blurry. I did not have a tripod and was doing my best to brace my camera against the tree trunk.

From a bit farther away

They had a candle night. Buying a candle gave money to the earthquake victims. It was in the shape of a heart.

The heart from farther away.

April 20, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part 3 – Half Bloom

In my previous post, I included some pictures of the cherry blossoms as they were just starting to bloom. Once again, the seven stages of cherry blossoms, according to Yahoo Japan,  are bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki 5分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki 7分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜).

These pictures are of roughly half-bloomed cherry blossoms (sakura).

half bloomed. More like...some of them have bloomed and some are being stubborn.

Walking the pink(ish) path

April 13, 2011

Ryuzugataki, a Japan Top 100 Waterfall

Japan likes to rank things, and then to brag about things ranked among the best. Japanese people flock to anywhere UNESCO has called a World Heritage Site, while most Americans I know don’t even know what a UNESCO World Heritage Site is. Ideally, things are in the top 3 or top 10, but for places like out here in the middle of nowhere, we’re willing to settle for the top 100. And my town brags about several places ranked in the top 100 in their category. I recently visited a top 100 waterfall.

I posted some pictures a few weeks ago about another waterfall, but that waterfall doesn’t make the top 100. The only accolade it has to brag about is being a Prefectural Site of Natural Beauty.  Ryuzugataki (竜頭が滝) is bigger and therefore more impressive. I guess that’s why it makes the top 100. There are 2 waterfalls there. The larger one is about 40 meters (141 ft) and the smaller is about 30 meters (98 ft). (They call them the male falls and the females falls, respectively.) We didn’t have time to visit both, so we just went to the bigger one.

I cant believe how small and insignificant it looks in the picture. Its actually 40 meters tall!

Hitting the water.

After looking at the waterfall from the front, we crossed these rocks so we could get a different view. My friend was wearing high heels! Not ideal footwear for hiking around waterfalls...

Looking at the waterfall from the side. You can also go sort of behind the waterfall to get an even more interesting view, but I didnt feel comfortable taking my camera with me.

Another view from the side.

March 29, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part 1-Waiting

Cherry blossoms (Sakura桜) are a national obsession in Japan. This year, things are a little different due to the earthquake and the still tenuous situation with the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, but a massive natural disaster happening on the other side of the country does not stop the cherry blossoms from blooming and if people still want to do flower viewing (Hanami 花見), then they will. Usually, at this time of year, the news is filled with updates about where the flowers have bloomed and where they will bloom next. Tourists flock to popular cherry blossom viewing sites. Good luck getting a hotel in Kyoto during cherry blossom season. Of course, this year, the country has other things on it’s mind and updates on the disaster have replaced much of the cherry blossom fervor.

But you can still find plenty of information online. For example, Yahoo Japan, has a map of cherry blossom viewing spots around Japan and has organized the current state of the cherry blossoms into 7 categories: bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki 5分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki 7分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜). Currently most of the country is still in the bud category.  (Although Yahoo also has a disclaimer on their site saying that they have yet to check on the situation of the cherry blossoms in the areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.)

Where I’m living, the cherry blossoms are a bit late this year because we had an unusually harsh winter. I’ve been told that we usually have blooms by this time of year. Also, the cherry blossom festival, one of the biggest events of the year from my city has been drastically scaled back in the wake of the disaster. The fireworks, various performances, and many of the food stalls have been canceled. They will still have limited food stalls and light the trees up at night, but that’s about it.

Here is what the trees look like as of yesterday:


This tree lined path goes along a river and it is where everyone will come for flower viewing once the flowers bloom.


The first buds on the trees.


These buds look a bit closer to opening.


A young couple walks along the tree lined path. Schools are currently on their spring break between semesters.


The sun sets behind the trees.


February 18, 2011

Torii Gate at Low Tide

Filed under: Chuugoku, Domestic, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 2:07 am

In a couple of previous posts, I put up pictures of the 16 meter (52.5 ft) tall floating red torii gate at Miyajima island. You may have been thinking, how in the world did they get that big gate out in the water? Answer: low tide.

Although the Torii gate is not reachable when the tide is high, during low tide, you can walk out right next the gate. The gate has been there since 1168, but the current gate is from 1875 and is the 8th gate. The keep the gate grounded, it has heavy stones at the bottom to weigh it down. The idea is that it should be able to withstand typhoons and it seems to be doing so swimmingly. Also, each side has 4 helper columns, keeping it steady. Another thing that prevents it from being totally destroyed by the elements is the materials. The gate is made of camphor wood, which is slow to rot and strong against bugs.


With people to compare it to, the gate seems much, much bigger.


All them tourists gotta get up close to the torii and take some pictures.

looking up

It seems that I proceded to copy the guy in the picture above and take the exact same photo as he did.

bottom of the torii

The bottom of the Torii looks a bit dirty, doesn't it?


The sun has set and my day in Miyajima has come to an end.

I would feel like a day at Miyajima was incomplete if I didn’t see the Torii at high tide and low tide. It gives you 2 different perspectives on this amazing piece of architecture and both are necessary to get a full sense of how amazing it is.

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