May / June 2020 Journal: Fireflies, Umeshu, and Rice Fields

For Deanna It’s been a varied last few months here in Kyushu. Schools have started back on their usual schedule, seasons are quickly changing to summer, and new life abounds in the fields all across the prefecture. I’ve been actively trying to get as much out of my free time as I can while I…

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Exploring Wakasa: Kyoto’s Influence on Fukui’s Obama City and the Wild Monkeys at Hibiki Terraced Rice Fields

Article originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. “GAH! MONKEYS!!!” I stopped dead in my tracks as I stumbled into a group of wild monkeys at Hibiki Terraced Rice Fields. I think I surprised them as much as they did me,…

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Exploring Tango Part 2: A Bridge to Heaven at Amanohashidate

Article originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. Japan is a country of lists. Top five cities. Top ten shrines. Top 100 ramen joints… you get the picture. So it didn’t surprise me when I started researching the famous sight…

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Exploring Tango Part 1: Feeling Small at Maizuru Red Brick Park, Kyoto

Article originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. In the beautiful stretch of coastal scenery in northern Kyoto prefecture (京都府), lies a port town of lovely red brick buildings at Maizuru (舞鶴) Brick Park. Facing the Sea of Japan (日本海), Maizuru was originally a fishing…

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Exploring Tajima Part 3: Takeda Castle Ruins and Ikuno Silver Mine

Article originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. I have a confession to make: I hate haunted houses. As a kid, the looming fear that something would come to life and jump out at me from the dark terrified me…

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Exploring Tajima Part 2: A Private Spa and Local Flavours at Kinosaki Onsen

Article originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. I might not have been the image of grace stomping along in my inch-high geta sandals. But it completed my yukata and onsen hopping outfit, as I clip-clopped along the willow-lined canal of Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉). With the…

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Exploring Tajima Part 1: My Soba Eating Tour in Izushi Castle Town

Article originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. “Itadakimasu!“ With my stomach already dangerously at capacity, I dove into my last order of soba (buckwheat) noodles in the Japanese castle town of Izushi (出石). As my favourite go-to cold noodle dish during the summer months in…

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Sakura Blossoms, Self-Isolation and Love Handles in Japan

This post a little out of character for me, as I’ve focused more on writing articles about my travels within Kyushu. At the same time, I figured that this was good time as any to post a general update-on-life-in-Japan article. This past month of March and early April has seen some shifts in Japan –…

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Under the Canopy of Wisteria Blossom at Senzai Park, Oita

It’s an indisputable fact that the Japanese people love their seasonal blossoms, and the yearly blooms of wisteria are no exception. Hot on the heels of the annual cherry blossoms in March, the woody vines of the fuji wisteria come into bloom during the last stretch of April and into the beginning of May. An earlier visit I made to Yabakei’s cherry…

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Exploring Tamba Part 4: Traditional Japanese Paper Making in Kurotani Village, Kyoto

Originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. Ohhhh, hand-made paper. I remember going through and feeling my mother’s old collection of Japanese washi papers as a kid, loving the texture of the delicate veins of natural fibres weaved into a smooth layer. I…

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Exploring Tamba Part 3: A Stay in the Traditional Japanese Home of Umetan FUJI, Hyogo

Originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. “Watch out for those deer!” I whispered, as a herd suddenly skipped across the road in the dark. It was a moonless night in Hyogo prefecture’s Tamba Sasayama (丹波篠山) as we headed to our accommodations at Umetan Fuji for…

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Exploring Tamba Part 2: Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive in Tamba Sasayama Castle Town

Originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. It was a day of wind and rain — not exactly the ideal weather for a photoshoot in Hyogo Prefecture’s (兵庫県) Tamba-Sasayama (丹波篠山市). Home to a rich 400-year old history, this Japanese castle town…

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Exploring Tamba Part 1: The 800-Year Old Japanese Craft Heritage of Tamba Pottery

Originally written for Voyapon / Part of a 4-day trip to mainland Japan exploring Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukui prefectures in January, 2020. When I was a kid, my mother thought it was best to keep my brother and I occupied with a myriad of craft-making camps and workshops that filled our summer vacations. What probably…

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Cherry Blossoms and Baby Blue Eyes in Nakatsu, Oita

Perhaps it’s an obvious statement, but allow me to make it anyways: Japan loves their sakura. With a sakura blossoming forecast plotted out on a map for all of Japan to see (here and here), it’s easy to anticipate their fullest bloom no matter where you are in Japan. It was the beginning of sakura…

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Christmas 2019: Kurokawa Onsen

It was 3 years ago when I first visited Kurokawa Onsen. On my first trip back to Japan as an adult in 2016, my boyfriend and I splurged on a stay at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) at the famous onsen hotspot in Kumamoto prefecture. With absolutely no previous experience staying in any ryokan, this upscale…

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The Swordsmith of Arao, Kyushu

Originally written for Voyapon Sponsored by Northern Kumamoto Administrative Headquarters “Strike while the irons hot.” I always knew what this meant, though never witnessed it in its complete, literal meaning. That is, until one a stormy day, while the furnace roars and hammers clang, as Mr. Matsunaga of Arao, Kumamoto leads us into the elusive…

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