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! 🙂

One Week of Travelling – Okayama

After spending a night at Max’s dormitory room in Kyoto, I continued to the next stop on my journey, which was Okayama. Some might remember that Okayama was where I went to for my first trip to Japan in 2010 (wow, that’s already 4 years ago…). As on my earlier stops, I wanted to meet up with friends again, so I met with Saya, who was a student at Hiroshima University while I was doing my year abroad and we went walking around the city, which was a lot of fun.

But of course, I also wanted to meet up with Gen and his family again, so we went to the Shorinji during our walk, where I met him for the first time. I wasn’t able to contact him before that day, so as expected, noone was there. But I left a note and he called me in the evening, so we met up in the city and had a nice evening to catch up with the last two years 🙂

It was a really nice evening and I have a new contact address for next time as well, so I won’t have to wait in front of the temple in vain 😀

Summer Journeys – Niimi

With me having summer holidays in August and September, I set out to travel a lot of places in Japan to use all of the available time and see a lot more of this country. The problem is, I’m already 2 and a half weeks behind with my schedule of blogging about this (and it’s going to mount up a fair bit more, I guess xD), so please be patient with me 😀

But let me tell you about Niimi: it’s a small town in the north-western part of Okayama-prefecture surrounded  by mountains and generally beeing in a pretty rural location. In essence, it might be not the ideal place to go for sightseeing, but the reason for going there was a different one. My tandem partner Yoshino, whom I used to help with German and she taught me Japanese the last 6 months before I came to Japan, had invited me to visit her family in Niimi and of course I happily accepted this invitation. Beeing able to live in a Japanese family doesn’t happen all day and it was a nice chance to meet a good friend again 🙂

I stayed there for three days and while Niimi doesn’t offer much for tourists, the sheer hospitality of Yoshino and her family, as well as the nice atmosphere of the small town made it 3 days very well spent. I was treated to meals in the family, we watched movies and went eating ice cream together (and to the local art museum, which had a puppet exhibition – puppets are indeed a bit creepy…) and so on. It was really nice! The house was also quite traditional with tatami on the floor and rice paper doors and such and was very well tended to. Luckily the toilet was modern western style (with all the fancy buttons), because the traditional Japanese toilet is an abomination of a toilet. Not much mor than a hole in the ground – bwah xD

Anyway, with this little trip my whole tour started and on the first of September I went on from Niimi to Tokyo, which is of course another article or some more of them 😉


Golden Week Journey – Day 1 (Okayama)

Hi again from Japan! These days it’s Golden Week, which means some days off and in my case skipping some classes in between to go traveling for a few days. I chose to travel to the Kansai area, including Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, to do some sightseeing and visit my friends from Hamburg and Japan, who are also studying there right now. So I took the train on Saturday and set for Osaka.

Still, Okayama layed on the way and as I’ve been there last year, I decided to visit Gen again (Nozomi has moved back to her hometown Shimonoseki again). I arrived there around midday and after eating lunch and buying a sleeping bag I continued to Gens place. His wife and children sadly weren’t there, but I had a nice conversation with his mother and him in the garden, while drinking some tea.  As I’ve already seen most of the sights in Okayama last year we decided to watch the local soccer team’s first home match of this season. Okayama Fagiano plays in the second japanese division and had lost their first to matches. Watching the game, I was able to imagine why. I noticed a lack of structure and shooting on the opponent’s goal only around 5 times in 45 minutes isn’t much. They were lucky, the opponent wasn’t able to capitalise on that and so the game ended with a draw – 0:0.

After that, we wen’t eating near the station, so I would be able to catch my train to Osaka. It was an izakaya and we were eating a wide variety of foods, but I haven’t made any photos that time :/ I can assure you though, that it was extremely delicious and ranging from teriyaki to some tofu. I promised him to come and visit him again later this year again. Hopefully his whole family will be there at that time 🙂

Later, I continued to Osaka without a problem and and checked into Yanniks place, where we stayed awake about until 5 a.m. before we decided it would be wise to go to sleep, considering we wanted to do sightseeing in Osaka on the next day ^^

3rd of March: First day in Okayama

Yesterday was my first full day in Okayama. I woke up at te same time as Nozomi, because she needed to go to work and her alarm clock started ringing – it was around 7:30. I asked her to explain how tu use the internet here and after that I wrote my first blog-article, which you have probably already read. But Japan has different power-outlets than Germany, so I had to use a connection piece to plug my notebooks power-plug in. Sadly, my natebooks power-plug didn’t fit in, so I had to cut a little bit of the connection piece until it fitted. Took me about 30 minutes until it worked xD

Anyway, it was quite nice weather with a lot of sun and only a very few clouds, so when Nozomi came back at noon, we took the bus into the city. At first we went to fetch  something to eat for lunch. This took us quite some time, because most of the food places there seem to be quite expensive. But at least they had these nice plastic replications of how your food looks like. So after we found some place to eat, it was quite easy to decide, even though I didn’t knew what all these foods were. To get an overall expression, I took a mixed menu, where various dishes were mixed into something that seemed to be some kind of an omelette.

After that, we went into a media store, to buy an electronic dictionary for myself. As I didn’t understand most of the differences between the different ones and Nozomi also wasn’t so sure about them, we had to ask for an employee who speaks english. Actually that helped me to choose one dictionary, but mostly he was like “You can write Kanji with this” – “And does it come with and english manual?” – “English menu? Yes yes, you can write an english word an then see the Kanji. Look Kanji. Easy!”… something along these lines.

So when we were finished, we decided to walk to the Korakuen park and the castle of Okayama to visit them. After the noise in the electronic market it seemed kinda silent on the streets, even though we were walking alongside one of the main roads in Okayama, which connects the main trainstation and the culture area, where most of the museum and historical sides can be visited.

Some 30 minutes later we finally reached the Korakuen garden. It’s actually one of the three most valued landscape gardens in Japan. While I don’t know the competitors for that title, I think it was a really nice looking place. There were different thematic sections like the bamboo forest or the place for cherry trees, which haven’t started to blossom yet. Instead, the plum trees blossoms had already opened, so I couldn’t resist to make a photo. and the next is an overvie from the central hill of the park 🙂

When we had seen all of the park, we decided to go to the castle, which was already always viewable from te park, because it stood on a hill next to the park, which was only separated from it by a river. Because of the black colour, the building was also called the ‘Crow Castle’. It was mostly burned down in WWII but rebuilt in 1966. On the top floor, we had a magnificent view over the city, while the sun was slowly starting to sink again. The next two pictures are the castle itself and the view from one of te top floor windows.

Finally it became evening, so we went home and stopped by at a supermarket to buy some food for dinner. As I was asked by Schotti how small the rooms in Japan are, here’s a picture of Nozomi’s place. I’m standing in the living room right there and you can see the sleeping place above the door and if you look through the hallway, you will discover the entrance door. So it’s definitely small, but actually a bit bigger than expected 😉

That’s it for now. I’ll go into the town on my own today and will tell you about this tomorrow. Bye 😉