The Mighty Gion Matsuri

It’s festival season! For enduring the hot summer months in Japan, we are rewarded with dozens and dozens of exciting festivals… traditional street festivals, lantern festivals, obon dance festivals, fireworks festivals, awa dance festivals, you name it!  Continue reading “The Mighty Gion Matsuri”

Spectacular Colours in Kyoto

Kyoto is incredible any time of the year. No two visits are ever the same, and there are endless places to explore. With its World Heritage temples and shrines, geisha district, traditional foods and ancient history, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular cities in the world. Continue reading “Spectacular Colours in Kyoto”

A to Z: 2016 Review

It’s a bit late but, Happy New Year! How is it already the end of January?

For my 2016 review post, I thought I’d change it up again and sort my fave memories according to the letters of the alphabet. I love doing these yearly wrap up posts as I get to look back at all of the awesome places I got to visit and fun activities I got to take part in, and share them with you in one go. Continue reading “A to Z: 2016 Review”

Sakura Hunting in Kansai (Part 1)

In a country famous for its spring scenes filled with pink and white cherry blossoms, it’s hard to decide just where to go to enjoy these short-lived flowers. Your most memorable sakura experience could be anywhere from a residential street to a major tourist spot to a remote mountain side. The only thing to do is just get out there and explore!

For the sakura season, I had originally planned to stick around Tokyo like last year, mainly so that I could save money. But the closer I got to the spring holidays, the more I felt the itch to leave the city and make the most of my time off. With a week to go, I bit the bullet and booked my tickets, found accommodation and jotted down a rough plan. My destination: Kansai.

Kansai is a region of Japan that’s home to ancient cities, national treasures and the country’s oldest structures. It’s almost the polar opposite of Tokyo. After living in the modern, fast-paced capital for 3 years now, I immediately noticed the difference especially at my first stop, Kyoto. Even the most touristy of places have somehow managed to keep that traditional, ‘old Japan’ charm.

The last time I was in Kyoto was in 2012 during one of their best ever autumn foliage seasons. The streets were splashed with brilliant reds and yellows and oranges. After seeing the city at its fiery best, I knew I had to see it during the sakura season, too.

Night 1:

Higashiyama & Gion

Day 2:

Heian Jingu & Nanzen-ji

Imperial Palace

Rokkaku-do & Philosopher’s Path

Kyoto was breathtakingly beautiful, even though the sakura were not in full bloom. I loved strolling, or rather, crowd surfing, in Higayashima. I made it to Kiyomizu-dera just before dark and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains. Walking around the streets at night felt like I was on a movie set with so many girls wearing kimono. I think Kyoto is the only city where it’s completely normal for everyone to wear a kimono! The following day I rented a bicycle which was such a good idea. You don’t have to worry about bus timetables, or getting tired from walking, or limiting yourself to just one area. Highly recommended if you visit Kyoto :) As for the sakura, the Imperial Palace was by far the best spot to see them while I was there. I love the feeling of being rained on by petals when you stand under a weeping cherry tree. And the Imperial Palace was full of them! I was also lucky to get sunshine on and off all day. As we all know, pink blossoms against a blue sky is always a winner.

After a busy day of sakura hunting I bid farewell to Kyoto, and continued onto my next stop. I headed south to a place famous for their deer that freely roam the streets. Part 2 coming soon.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

I’ve been so busy since coming back from holidays – getting back into my work routine, apartment hunting and sorting out immigration paperwork to renew my visa – that I feel like I’ve hardly had time to catch my breath. So, this week’s photo challenge theme “serenity” has actually come at a great time to make me stop and relax!

Japanese gardens are designed as serene places where you can reflect, meditate and be at peace. They are always aesthetically pleasing, and grab your attention in the most gentle of ways. From the lines in the raked sand, to the colours in the garden, and the moss on the rocks, you can rest assured everything is in its place!

These are some of my favourite Moss, Rock and Promenade gardens of Kyoto.

Autumn Has Arrived

Today marks the first day of autumn. And in good style, it’s a national holiday in Japan, 秋分の日. Yes! I can laze around :-D Today, there will be 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime. And then from here on in, the days will get shorter and shorter.

I reckon the best thing about autumn is the warm, cozy feeling it brings. Even though I’ve never in my life experienced this, when I think of autumn, I immediately think of sitting around a fireplace, all snug and warm, while outside the trees rustle in the winds. Bit weird, I know. Must have been some story book I read or movie I watched as a child! But what I actually do know is that the temperature drops; the morning air becomes fresh and crisp; blankets and jackets are brought out of storage; night inches earlier and earlier, almost like gently pushing people into their warm homes to be with their families; gradually cold thirst-quenching drinks are replaced with hot chocolates and warm cups of tea; and the colour of foliage changes from cool shades of green to warm shades of red, orange and yellow.

In Japan, I think of acorns…

Acorn

and pine trees…

Pine fern

and loads of colour, like these snaps of Kyoto…

Kyoto

Kyoto

Kyoto

Kyoto

And then there’s the novelty side… Autumn salad (although I’m pretty sure the only difference to the regular salads is it has pumpkin)

Autumn salad

Halloween candies…

Halloween KitKat

Halloween KitKat

Halloween Pocky

Halloween Pocky

And of course, autumn beer…

Autumn Kirin beer

Happy Autumnal Equinox Day, everyone!