A Day in Chiba City (千葉市)

Living in Chiba prefecture, I also felt the urge to check out the prefectures main city, which conviniently goes by the name of Chiba City and was just easily reachable by taking the train for a few stations. I decided to meet there with my former language tandem partner Masako and her friend Nami, at whose house my brother and I stayed when we were climbing Mt. Fuji in 2011 – it already feels like ages ago.

For our day in Chiba City, we decided to go to the zoo first. From my past experiences with Japanese zoos this one stood out to me as actually using cages that weren’t too small (as far as zoo cages go – for the animals every case is too small, of course) and feeling very much like a forest, due to the large amount of trees everywhere. The zoo is especially famous for its lesser pandas who are now already in their third generation, as far as I remember. The oldest one of them even got to be a TV star by being able to stand on his behind legs. Though those weren’t the only animals, of course 😉

The next spot of our day trip was the port area. Chiba has one of the bigger ports in Japan and also boasts the port tower, from which you’re supposed to be able to see until Mt. Fuji if the skies are clear. We didn’t happen to be that lucky, but it was nevertheless a cool sight. The area around the port tower even felt a bit like the Elbe beach in Hamburg :-)

With the sun slowly setting the three of us decided to head back to the city centre to go to an Izakaya and let the day come to an end there. The bar was one of Nami’s recommendations and it was definitely worth it. A huge selection of great food accompanied by nice drinks and a cool atmosphere. While we were in there and having fun, a strenght 8,4 earthquake struck Japan, but luckily several hundred kilometers below us. The bar shook quite a bit nevertheless, but the other customers didn’t seem to mind too much, so we didn’t either. When in Rome…

All in all I really enjoyed the day in Chiba with Masako and Nami. Just the right mixture of sightseeing and fun. We already have some more meetings planned :)

That’s the end for this post. I hope you enjoyed it. Leave a comment if you like or if there are questions!

Traveling 2015 – Okayama (岡山) and Fukuyama (福山)

Early during my stay in Tokyo I was able to take a few days off to visit good friends of mine in Okayama in Fukuyama, both cities in the Japanese Chugoku region. Some of you might remember that my first journey to Japan back in 2010 also went to Okayama. So during these past five years I developed a certain fondness of that city, which is still going strong. For this reason I try to make a point of stopping by there whenever I’m in Japan – which is even more enjoyable with great friends there like Gen and Hana and their family, who were – as always! – a pleasure to meet. I didn’t do much sightseeing this time, except walking through Korakuen again, which is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan.

For the next step of the small trip I went to Fukuyama to visit Yoshino, whom I’ve also known since 2010 and who has become a very good friend of mine. Together we discovered a bit of Fukuyama and she introduced me to a really nice Izakaya (Japanese-style bar) in Onomichi, not too far away. We also discovered Mametoku (豆徳 まめとく), a shop that is specialised on sweets made out of or with various beans. Definitely have a look at their webshop (though only in Japanese), if you want to try something a bit special 😉

The second day in Fukuyama brought with it the Rose Festival, a big event during which the city celebrates its famous roses and thousands of visitors come to see the flowers as well as all the artists, singers and other attractions that are in town during the two days of the festival.

Of course, I won’t leave out the main attraction of the festival, the flowers:

And of course, there is the usual dose of weird and interesting things to find on such a festival. In places this far from Tokyo you’ll also get asked to take a picture together with someone quite often. Personally, I don’t mind this most of the time. At the worst it’s going to be a weird moment, but at the best times you take away a good memory and have built a small intercultural connection. And it’s even better if the images turn out nice as well 😉

That’s it for now. I hope to be able to post some more articles in the coming days. Stay tuned and leave a comment! :)

Trip to Tokyo (東京)

Back from the grave! It took me some time, but I was able to reactivate my blog for my currently ongoing trip to Tokyo, where I work as a sort of short-term trainee at the German Goethe-Institut until the beginning of July. Shame on me for not working on this earlier, but I’ll try to catch up as quickly as possible – promise!

But first things first: my temporary residence is in Chiba prefecture, where I’m staying at a host family for a very reasonable price. I didn’t think about the long commute every day when I booked the place though… that’s one and a half hours every morning and evening gone. But at least I’m avoiding the main rush hour by starting work a bit later. Below you can see my modest appartment in the quiet (as in: nothing going on here at all) commuter neighbourhood of Makuharihongo as well as the train station.

The Goethe-Institut Tokyo is located in Tokyos Akasaka ward, quit central and also close to Shibuya and Shinjuku. The area is a big conglomeration of office buildings, in between which the building of the institute (which is shared with other German institutions) looks relatively small. Nevertheless, the interior is really spacey and it’s a cool place to work at. I could have even re-decorated my office, but I didn’t really bother for a few weeks only.

That’s it for a first look. Next up will be a few short travel episodes. Stay tuned and leave a comment!

One Week of Travelling – Niimi

The last stop on my way to my research prefecture Tottori was in Niimi, which was about half way from Hiroshima. I went there to visit my former language exchange partner and good friend Yoshino and her family. It was the time of the Hina Matsuri, the doll festival, and throughout the old street of the small town, the shops were decorated with small dolls. I hadn’t seen this festival in Japan before, as it’s usually more of an event within the family as far as I know, but in Niimi, they were even attracting some tourists with it – really interesting!

In addition to this, Yoshino’s mum really is a great cook and prepared extremely delicious Japanese dishes (I even started to like octopus) and the whole family was just very hospitable as always. I definitely hope I’ll be able to visit again some time :)

One Week of Travelling – Hiroshima

For the last big stop on my week of travelling I had planned to go back to Hiroshima, where I had spent my year two years ago. Time definitely flew by since then, but I finally had the chance to meet some really great friends again. The first day was spent in Hiroshima City, where I met with Tadahiko and Manami again, who were bot fellow students at Hiroshima University.

Hiroshima Peace Park

Hiroshima Peace Park

Even though the weather had slowly been getting worse I wanted to see the city center again, so we went for a walk through the Peace Park and the shopping arcades of Hiroshima City. Basically nothing had changed since I had left two years ago, so it was nice to walk on known paths again, that were carrying quite a few good memories for me. Afterwards, we also did some window shopping, before going for a coffee, hot chocolate and parfait respectively.

Tadahiko, Manami and me - Mirror Selfie ;-)

Tadahiko, Manami and me – Mirror Selfie ;-)

As I was going to stay at Tadahiko’s place that evening (again, thanks a lot, man!), we went back to Saijo afterwards and had some ramen noodles together. Still one of my favourite kind of dishes in Japan, especially Hakata Ramen from Fukuoka.

The next day saw me walk a bit through Saijo again, where I went to visit the grounds of Hiroshima University again, as well as the sake area. I spend a nice lunch break at Q, which looks like an american surfer shack from the outside, but is easily one of the very best places to eat Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki. And I also took another break for a nice piece of cake at the Kugurimon café in the sake area. I’m not sure, if the place existed two years ago, but they had a really nice atmosphere in there, so I took my time to write some postcards from there ^^

The evening was spent at Chad’s and Chisaki’s (who are now having an adorable little son, whom I’m definitely going to teach some German vocabulary to annoy Chad a bit next time ;-P) place, who were so nice to host me for two nights and to organise a really awesome dinner with some friends from two years ago. Needless to say, it was a great evening, it became really late and we might have been a liiiittle bit drunk (I still can’t believe we drank all that sake in the end oO). Just like in the old days, basically 😉

For the following day, despite some remaining hangover, Chad and I went to the sake area in the afternoon, to visit all the breweries again and have a taste of the new sake for this year (early spring is the time when they produce the new sake). Now that might not have been the most ingenious idea we’ve ever had, but we had a great afternoon, that continued seemlessly into a great karaoke session in the evening with Marcelo, Takao and Dmitry.

So miraculously, we still had a bit of a hangover the next day as well, but as it was the day of the spring sake festival, we needed to go to the sake area again, as there were some of the most premium sake brands of the country available to try for free – and warm amazake (甘酒), which is one of the most awesome drinks you can have on a cold late winter’s day. It’s basically sweet sake, with a very low alcohol content, but is still heating you up from the inside nonetheless. Brilliant stuff!

Wit this preparation, we finally set out for a hike up to the mountain behind Saijo station, which allows for a nice view over the city on a good day. On the way, we had barbecue with Takao first, however, who is one of the best equipped campers I have ever met. And one of the best barbeque-ers at the same time! Needless to say, we were really stuffed, when we continued our hike up to the top of the mountain. Also, for some reason, either our stamina wasn’t as good as two years ago or we had chosen the difficult path uphill, as they had extremely high stairs that made us breathe quite heavily extremely fast xD

But in the end we made it, even though the weather was not so much in our favour, concerning the view:

The View over Saijo

The View over Saijo

Still, a climb well worth it and a great memory to our hikes two years ago. I really enjoyed the few days in Hiroshima and will definitely come again in the future!