Hakone is home to a very bizarre mixture of things. To most Japanese, it is known as an onsen town. The many hot springs in the area are thanks to the volcano complex, Mt Hakone. You can even go up to the crater where you’ll find black onsen-boiled eggs that add 7 years onto your life! Continue reading “Le Petit Prince in Hakone”
Standing atop Matsuda-yama, it felt like I was in a dream.
I was on a hillside covered in thousands upon thousands of pink petals, looking down over the urban area below. The late afternoon sun was shining intensely and everyone around seemed so happy to be there experiencing this fleeting moment. Continue reading “Atop Mt Matsuda”
Happy Children’s Day!
May 5th in Japan is a national holiday dedicated to celebrating the happiness of kids. I love the carp streamers that are displayed for the week leading up to Children’s Day. They are bright and colourful, and peaceful yet powerful. The carp, known as koi in Japanese, symbolise strength as the fish are able to swim upstream.
One of the most famous places around Tokyo to see the koinobori is Sagamihara in Kanagawa prefecture. I made the 1.5 hour train and bus journey on the weekend. There were so many families enjoying the nice weather. It was really great to see kids playing around in the water, skimming (or just throwing) pebbles and generally having a good time. It reminded me of my childhood days playing at a river down the road from our house. Those were the days! I wish all of the school students I teach and have taught, as well all the kids around the world, a healthy and happy life.
Koinobori flying at Hana no Miyako Park near Mt Fuji on Tuesday.
I recently joined a volunteer and hiking group by the name of Jambo. The organization focuses on environmental protection and also supports programs in Africa, hence the name jambo – ‘hello’ in Swahili. They are a great group of people, old and young, Japanese and non-Japanese, and all with a love of the outdoors and meeting people!
Please check out their homepage: http://en.jambointernational.org/
We arrived at Arazaki in Miura, about 50km south of Tokyo, mid-morning. The weather was perfect: sunny, breezy, and warm. After a briefing by the group leader, we headed for the coastline. The area is noted for its stunning cliff faces. From a distance, though, it wasn’t the rocks that first caught my eye, but the mass of tents! Families with little kids and big kids alike were camping along the cliffs, BBQ’ing, playing in the water, having a great time! What a great way to spend time with family and friends.
The closer we got to the sea shore, the more extraordinary the rocks became. At a quick glance, the cliffs look messy and dirty, but in fact years and years of wind erosion, water erosion, and faults and folds in the earth have resulted in incredible patterns and carvings. Geologists must go crazy here! The colours in the rocks range from light cream to brown to black. It reminded me of hardened lava pipes. I was so curious that after some research, I discovered it is in fact alternating beds of silt, basaltic gravel, solidified ash and volcanic sand. Could Mt Fuji have been responsible for this??!
Another thing that surprised me was the water… crystal clear, sparkly, cool, refreshing! I could see every little detail on the sea bed, from the tiny fish nibbling on rocks to the bumps on the back of the shells. Although well into spring, it was still a bit too cold to jump in. Perhaps another trip in the summer!?
Well, enough of me describing, take a look yourself…
In the blink of an eye, Golden Week came and went. Holidays always fly by way too quickly! I packed as much as I could into my four days off, venturing to new places, eating new food and meeting new people. By the end of it, I was left with lots of good memories… and about 500 photographs to sort through and edit!
Children’s Day, こどもの日, was one of the holidays celebrated during GW. Although no one knows exactly when this holiday started (anything up to 1000 years ago), it used to be a day to honour boys only. It officially became “Children’s Day” in the late 40’s.
For this festival, families with sons hang up carp streamers outside their house and display warrior dolls inside their house. It’s also common for there to be ‘koinobori festivals’ in public places where you can go and see hundreds of carp flying high in the sky. It’s quite spectacular to walk underneath these huge 5 metre long streamers. They really do look like fish flying in the sky!
A little bit about the background of koinobori… the carp, called koi in Japanese, are a symbol of good luck. They are a type of fish able to swim upstream by jumping up out of the water. These carp are said to have qualities of strength, courage and success. So, they represent the type of men that parents wish their sons will grow into.
~ Koinobori along the Tama River in Noborito, Kanagawa ~
~ Koinobori in Miura, Kanagawa ~
This family shows a black carp which represents the father, a red carp for the mother, then one blue carp which represents their son.
~ Koinobori in Kawagoe, Saitama ~
Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls) in a private house in Kawagoe