It’s mid winter here in Tokyo and the days of late have been sun-less, rainy and dreary. Some people thrive in cold weather. The idea of cozy fireplaces, Ugg boots, snow angels and mulled wine sounds like the perfect dream. But in reality it’s more like struggling to get out of bed when it’s so cold you can see your breath, finishing work when it’s already dark out, and trying not to get sick as you go between overheated rooms and freezing outside temps all day. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say winter isn’t my favourite season!
This week’s photo challenge, Vibrant, came at a great time. I miss the colours of spring, summer and, more recently, autumn. In December, I went to Koishikawa Korakuen to catch the autumn foliage at their peak. I wanted to post about this city garden last month, but didn’t get the chance – so I’m hitting two birds with one stone today:)
Koishikawa Korakuen was created over 380 years ago, making it one of the oldest gardens in Tokyo. It’s one of 7 places in the country to have been designated both a ‘special place of scenic beauty’ and a ‘special historic site’, and is famous for its sakura in spring and momiji in autumn, as well as its bridges and water features. I’ve been at least half a dozen times since I moved to Tokyo, but nothing prepared me for the brilliance I saw this time!
Striking momiji tree
Autumn at Koishikawa Korakuen
Light and shadows trickery
Bursting with colour
Famous red bridge
What a year! I’ve been looking back at my photos from the start of the year, and they feel more like distant memories than things that happened less than 12 months ago. In between major events like snowboarding in Hokkaido, sakura-viewing and going to music concerts, which of course I can recall easily, there were lots of smaller, casual events like going to local festivals, hiking and checking out cool cafes, which I’d almost forgotten about. It’s especially in times like this that I am grateful to have these visual reminders.
For last year’s review, I wrote up my top 10 trips around the country. I probably did as much travel this year, but for my 2015 review I wanted to do things differently. I came up with the idea of sorting the year into colours a while ago, and have been excited to put it together. Not all photos are of Tokyo, but all were taken in Japan and have a special significance to me. Although this is a review post, there are a bunch of new pics about places I didn’t get a chance to blog about – so feel free to ask me about them if you want to know more.
Here is my ‘year of colours’!
Momiji leaf in Kurobe
Gingko avenue at Showa Kinen Park
Gingko avenue at Jingu Gaien
SkyTree immersed in clouds
White Christmas at Kitte
Snowboarding in Niseko
Cherry blossoms in Ueno
Plum Blossoms at Hanegi Park
Wood carvings at Shibamata Taishakuten
Fine dining in Kagurazaka
Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour
Nemophila at Hitachi Seaside Park
Art Aquarium exhibition
Lake Happo in Nagano
Winter illuminations in Shiodome
Spectacles Bridge in Nagasaki
Tanabata at Zojo Temple
Autumn in Takayama
Traditional dancing at a local festival
Totoro Cream Puff at Tolo Cafe
Winter illuminations at Tokyo Dome
Mt Fuji through the Shinjuku skyscrapers
Baseball at Tokyo Dome
Hydrangea stairway in Tochigi
Kegon Falls in Nikko
Spider lilies at Kinchakuda
Crowds at Ikegami Honmonji Oeshiki
Autumn at Koishikawa Korakuen
Stunning summer sunset
Cherry blossoms along the Meguro River
Azaleas at Nezu Shrine
Koenji Awa Odori
Amane showing off her kimono
The Color Run at Tokyo Bay
Thank you all for reading and supporting Celia in Tokyo in 2015. I’m looking forward to bringing you more stories and pics in 2016.
Happy New Year!!
After a short and sweet visit to Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, we jumped in a rental car and hit the road, travelling south for an hour or so into Gifu prefecture. I love driving on expressways in Japan – the road surface is so smooth, there are loads of tunnels which means less winding roads, and no one pays attention to the speed limit. The autumn colours in the mountains we drove through were sublime, especially when the sun was peeking through the clouds and lighting up the foliage.
Stop number 2 on our weekend trip was Shirakawago.
Shirawakago is made up of a few different villages that date back to the 11th century. The farmhouses in the area are famous for their triangular-shaped, thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snowfall. In the winter, the accumulated snow gets so high that the second floor often becomes the main entrance! But before the white stuff comes, the valley has a few weeks of spectacular autumn colours.
It was my second time to this secluded World Heritage site – the previous was in the middle of a stinking hot summer a couple of years ago. Just like last time, I was in awe of the massive gassho-zukuri farmhouses. It’s not until you go inside one of them that you realise just how large and spacious they are. Today, some houses are used as museums, while others are occupied by families or run as ryokans for visitors to stay in. The main street is filled with souvenir stores, but as soon as you leave that area, it feels like you’ve travelled back in time.
The village wasn’t as packed with tourists as it is sometimes, so it was very peaceful and relaxing to wander around the farmhouses. The colours around the lookout on the hilltop were beautiful and I could have stayed there forever taking photos! We ended up staying until the carpark closed at 5:30pm, then continued onto Takayama city where we spent the night. We went to sleep dreaming of yellows and oranges and reds. Little did we realise the stunning sights we would stumble upon the next day – more on that in the next post!
I’ve been living in my east-facing apartment for about 3 months now, and I’ve come to realise something a little depressing. It has happened about 3 or 4 times in the past couple of weeks, where I’ll be working on my computer in the kitchen or living room, and while taking a quick break I’ll open up Instagram on my iPhone. My eyes bulge as scroll down and see about 10 of my Instagram friends who also live in Tokyo posting pictures of an epic sunset which is happening right at that moment. So I drop everything and rush outside to check it out with my own eyes. How sad is it that I need technology to tell me what’s going on right outside my window! Other times, I’ve overheard people down on the street below actually exclaiming how pretty the sky is which has also given me the same reaction. Maybe I should start going for a run at 7pm just to make sure I don’t miss any more!
Brilliant sunsets tend to happen mostly in spring and autumn in Japan. Thankfully, there have been occasions in the past where I was in the right place at the right time. Watching the sky changing colours multiple times and seeing that last glow of sunlight is an experience unlike any other. It makes time slow down, it’s calming, it’s inspiring!
I chose 2 photos that show my interpretation of Vivid for this week’s Photo Challenge. The first was taken from an overpass near my home when I lived in Nagoya, and the second from my current workplace here in Tokyo.
The Color Run… the happiest 5k on the planet!
A couple of weekends ago, some friends and I headed over to Tokyo Bay near Disneyland to participate in this year’s The Color Run Tokyo. We joined last year too and it was so fun that couldn’t resist going again! The Color Run has spread like wildfire around the world, with something like over 50 countries now holding their own events.
Basically, it is a 5km fun run, where at every 1km mark, you run through a coloured powder war zone! At the start line, everyone is wearing their pristine white T-shirts. But it doesn’t stay clean for long. As you run through the 1km mark, orange powder hits you from every angle, then at 2km it’s blue, then yellow, and finally pink. As you cross the finish line, you’re looking something like a rainbow from a Mardi Gras parade or a festival goer at Holi in India. The main idea is just to be happy and have fun! At the finish line, there’s an outdoor party with a live DJ – the best part, in my opinion!
Thank you to Jen at the Daily Post for the Weekly Photo Challenge theme: Motion. Here are a few images which I hope capture the action and excitement of the event!