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…)

December 19, 2011

Adachi Museum of Art

There’s one reason the Adachi Museum of Art (足立美術館) gets so many visitors despite being in the middle of nowhere and it’s not the paintings. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of beautiful paintings on display. They simply aren’t the main draw of the museum. The reason everyone goes to the museum is to see the garden.

Although the museum garden is not counted as one of the three great gardens of Japan (日本三名園), it has been ranked as the best garden in Japan by the American Journal of Japanese Gardens for 8 years running! (2003-10) (I’ve been to one of the top 3 gardens as well, Korakuen in Okayama.) The museum was also given 3 stars in the Michelin Green Guide for Japan, putting it into the must see category.

The museum was opened by Zenko Adachi in 1970 when he was 71 years old. The museum’s garden and collection have been preened over to years to become the shining gem they are today. The museum does not allow pictures of the artwork, but I have some pictures of the garden to share.

This is what the best garden in Japan looks like.

Due to an unseasonably warm fall, the autumn leaves were not up to their usual brilliance this year (throughout Japan), but I still found a few trees that managed to produce some nice color.

I assume that they were so happy about being named the best garden that they got in engraved on stone, but then they got the prize again and had to improvise because carving a new stone each time is costly.

See more of the best garden, after the jump. (more…)

October 17, 2011

Autumn Festival

This year, I was invited to see a local fall festival (秋祭り). It was held in a small neighborhood nestled deep in the mountains. In good weather, this neighborhood is a 20 minutes drive from the nearest store. Once the snow falls, it takes even longer. The festival involved bringing a large object from the elementary school to a local shrine. (The school only has 5 students and will be shut down at the end of the school year.)

On the bottom left is the object that will be transported. The building on the right is the school gymnasium. The blue jacket like things that everyone is wearing are called Happi. They say 祭, or festival, on the back and are a very common sight at any local festival in Japan.

Everyone had interesting outfits for the festival.

I thought this guy was pretty funny. He had a bunch of daikon raddies and he kept grating them in a menacing way throughout the day. He would go up to small children, scare them with his creepy mask, and then hand them a piece of candy. The confusion on their faces was priceless!

It took 15 or 20 men to carry the heavy...thing. (I'm not really sure what to call it...) They had a lot of trouble keeping it steady.

More pictures after the jump (more…)

October 7, 2011

Autumn Fog

The autumn fog obscures the Chugoku mountains on an early October morning.

Chugoku mountains when the leaves are just starting to to change color.

Fog over the Chugoku mountains




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.


June 1, 2011

Cheung Chau (Part 3)

Yesterday and the day before, I posted pictures of Cheung Chau island in Hong Kong and today I have a few more pictures to share from Cheung Chau.

I visited Cheung Chau a couple weeks before their biggest event of the year, the bun festival. During the bun festival, a big wooden structure is built and covered with buns. Then people start to climb up the mountain and grab as many buns as they can. Sounds like fun!

Bao (steamed bun) Moutian, a wooden structure used in the Cheung Chau Bao Festival.

Temples, beaches, and boats still to come! (more…)

May 17, 2011

Sanouji, a Japan top 100 Terraced-Rice Field

I apologize for the delay in new posts, but I am back from my travels and have many more pictures to post in the coming weeks. I went to Hong Kong and Thailand during my 2 week trip. But I have yet to sort through those photos, so for now I will keep posting some pictures taken in Japan before my trip.

Not too far from the Japan top 100 pond from my previous post, is another Japan top 100, a top 100 terraced-rice field (棚田日本100選). When I visited, it was still barely spring and the lush green that I could probably see in the summer time was still a lazy brown. But it was still very…terraced. I can see why it’s in the top 100!

Several levels of the terraced rice field

These rice field levels are all smushed together

This tree was blooming by the rice fields.

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.

April 11, 2011

Beware of Bear!

Last fall, I was hearing stories about people seeing bears almost every week. The little kids wear bells on their ransel backpacks to scare the bears away. With the weather warming up, those bear stories are sure to become common conversation again. I have been seeing a lot of these signs near waterfalls. Makes sense. Bears probably like waterfalls more than pachinko parlors. Stay safe everyone!

Beware of a bear! I like this easy to understand sign.

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