It's the start of Golden Week in Japan - a bunch of public holidays that usually group together to make one big week off work for most people. Kam's work doesn't close over Golden Week and he is working this year, so instead we took a little pre-GW trip to Osaka. The main reason we booked the trip was to see Perth band Tame Impala play live. So on Tuesday morning we hopped over to Kansai, and were greeted with perfect sunny weather to bicycle around the city before the gig that night.
April 21, 2016
With things as they are in Kyushu this week as a result of the Kumamoto earthquakes, I have been trying to think about what to say - and how to post a set of bright and happy flower photographs when it honestly just makes me feel guilty that I am able to do so. How can we go about daily life in Fukuoka unscathed, routine unchanged, when so many lives have been lost and displaced so close to home? Not to mention the houses, castle, shrines and infrastructure damaged and destroyed. So before I show you photos of the gorgeous azalea valley we saw on Wednesday, I feel like I should address things briefly.
filed under: Saga
April 3, 2016
How many photos can I take of sakura? Judging by my last four blog posts it may seem endless, but in accordance with the fleeting nature of cherry blossoms the end is in sight. So just bear with me, this is probably the last of it. Today we went hanami-ing with lovely friends in a peaceful and nearly deserted park in Minami-ku. We ate karaage bento, played board games, skateboarded a little, chatted and watched the petals falling peacefully to the ground like pink snow.
Some scenes from Fukuoka's busiest hanami spot, Maizuru Koen and the Fukuoka Castle Ruins. I passed through twice, once at night just before full bloom and once on Saturday afternoon when the sun finally shone and the flowers were 100% bloomed. The view from the observation deck at the top of the castle ruins is spectacular, but the crowds are not. The buzz of a festival atmosphere is appealing to me at other times of the year, but with hanami I'd much rather be somewhere quiet and secluded. I was really happy just to be passing by, with quieter spots planned for our own hanami outings this year.
April 1, 2016
March 31, 2016
Today I took my lunch to Nishi Koen, one of my annual favourite sakura-viewing spots inside Fukuoka City. The trees are in full bloom right now, and although the sky was a sheet of gloomy grey, sakura have a tendency to bring magic to any scene.
March 24, 2016
When given the opportunity to make a free return trip to Nagasaki on Wednesday to record voice-overs for a TV commercial, we happily hopped on a Kamome rapid train and made a day of it. Although it was our fourth time to visit Nagasaki City, it's been over four years since our last trip so we were really excited to return. On past visits we covered all of the main tourist spots we were interested in (Gunkanjima, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Glover Garden, Chinatown etc.), so this time we had the whole afternoon and no plans but to wander around exploring the streets at leisure: taking a long break at the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, finding cheap records at a great shop called Sonny Boy, and consuming our favourite local specialties - kakuni manju and sara udon.
There's a lot to love about the city: abodes piled up the sides of mountains and hills, filling your field of vision as soon as you arrive; The tram system (complete with retro-style trams) which ensures the hustle and bustle of the city is kept above ground; The mixture of cultures that makes Nagasaki unique, with Dutch and Chinese influence all around; The back streets with eateries and bars packed in together tight and messy, lanterns and a jumble of power lines above your head...
As one of the first places we explored after moving to Fukuoka, it's one close to my heart and I'm so glad we had an opportunity to go back this week.
filed under: Nagasaki
March 13, 2016
A few short months ago Kam and I picked up a new hobby in Fukuoka - swing dancing. There's a little but lovely community for it, and this past weekend we attended a very cool event '真珠夜會第五夜' at a New Orleans themed restaurant called Dixie. Run by the owners of vintage shop PEARL in Yakuin, the event's highlights included lots of amazingly dressed guests, incredible live jazz, great food and drinks and lots of dancing! As somebody who until very recently would have proclaimed "I can't dance" if you asked me, it's rather thrilling to be whirling around the dance floor with increasing confidence. Add to that great jazz tunes and an excuse to dress up in my favourite vintage dresses and you've got a winning combo.
March 4, 2016
What do you do with a day off in early March in Japan? Make use of the brand new warm weather and take a trip to see the seasonal flowers, ume (plum blossoms). Dazaifu Tenmangu is a well known shrine throughout Japan, and one of Fukuoka's most famous. It enshrines Sugawara Michizane the god of learning and academic achievement; As such, many students visit Dazaifu before their exams to pray for good luck & good results.
We've visited Dazaifu Tenmangu many times over the years, but each time we go I am surprised afresh by how beautiful the place is. Today was no exception.
February 21, 2016
Shirakawa-gō, where do I begin? The historic village of Shirakawa-gō in Gifu Prefecture is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site in Japan - you may have seen photos of its slanted, thatched-roof huts (a total of 114, known as gassho-zukuri) covered in thick blankets of snow, or illuminated on a winter's night. It was such images that grabbed my attention a couple of years ago when we were deciding on a destination for a wintry Christmas holiday. It seemed an ideal spot to spend my first (and maybe only) white Christmas in 2013, but unfortunately we weren't the only ones with the idea and accommodation was well and truly booked out by the time we phoned around.
Fast forward two years and a few months to this weekend when our Shirakawa-gō dreams finally came true. This time we booked many months in advance and waited patiently through the autumn and early winter months in Fukuoka. Then, as it tends to do rather reliably, the time came! (and went!) Now I sit back at home under my kotatsu a few days later, reflecting on my photos and memories from our short but illuminating two-nighter in UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawa-gō.