5 Maps of Tokyo – interesting link

Some interesting perspectives on Tokyo through maps.

Maps of Tokyo

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Miyajima, Hiroshima. Visit with Mark

Between Christmas and New Year we visited Hiroshima for 2 days.

The first day we spent visiting Miyajima, an island shrine that seems to float on the water with an amazing O-torii gate.  The shrine was built during the 6th century and remodelled to how we now see it in 1168.  It was noted to be one of the three most scenic sites in Japan in 1643 by the Confucian scholar Shunsai Hayashi who toured Japan on foot and wrote a book “Observations about the remains of Japan’s Civil Affairs” where he praised 3 locations in particular including Miyajima.

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To get there you have to take a short ferry ride and the port is about 30 minutes outside of the city of Hiroshima.

The island was surprisingly peaceful for the large number of people visiting and like many places in Japan you could easily get away from the crowds by walking a little further and taking some of the back roads.

Of course to follow Japanese tradition we tried the local food: oysters, conger eel and the local cakes which look like maple leaves but have a variety of fillings.

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Skiing in Niseko, Hokkaido with Mark, Christmas 2014

Skiing and Powder Snow

Mark arrived in Tokyo and after a weekend together we headed north by flight from Tokyo to Sapporo in Hokkaido.  Our plan was 4 days skiing in the resort of Niseko south west of Sapporo.

Whenever I mentioned our trip to any friends or colleagues they mentioned 3 things:

1. the amazing powder snow

2. it’s cold!

3. it’s full of Australians.

All turned out to be true.  For me I felt a little like I’d left Japan and entered the international world of skiing.  Niseko did provide some great Japanese food but the main language was generally English and there were lots of Australians, north Americans and Europeans skiing.  Also, some of the things I’d come to love about Japan were missing.  An example is tipping, in Japan you do not tip, people give the exact amount for meals in exact change if possible.  In Niseko there were some jars labelled with ‘tips’ in some of the restaurants and pubs – I stuck to the traditionally Japanese approach.

The week that we were there Niseko got 167cm of snow!  That’s what makes it some of the best powder snow in the World!  Not being a world class skier I wondered what world class powder would mean.  It was great, very forgiving, no sliding sideways down icy slopes and quite a lot of fun on fresh snow feeling like you were the first there (and often were).

It did also mean that a lot of the time it was snowing so not great for photographs but wonderful for skiing!

It was very cold too.  I was used to it being quite cold from Tokyo but Hokkaido was very much colder.  I skied in many layers including several layers of down and we had to stop on a few occasions just to arm up and defrost nub fingers and toes.

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You can see in some of the picture above how deep the snow was.  On occasion we were skiing up to our knees.  It is a bit of a different style of skiing but a lot of fun especially when you are one of the first people done the slope.

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I loved the trees in Niseko.  Due to the almost constant snow they were had all of their branches covered, really beautiful!

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Travel in Japan (at least from a Japanese perspective) is all about food.  Whenever you visit somewhere people ask what you ate or whether you ate the food that the region you visited is famous for?

So therefore included in this post are many descriptions of the fantastic food that we ate while in Niseko.  Hokkaido is famous for lots of foods, dairy and crabs particularly and seafood generally.

I’m missing any photos of the good Italian meal that we had which included lovely cheese, mozzarella and feta – I’ve not found much great cheese in Japan – it is available but takes a bit of searching out and as there is so much alternative good food I’ve not put the effort in.  I’ve also missed any pictures of the excellent sushi that we had on our last lunch before flying back to Tokyo.  It was delicious and if we didn’t have a flight to catch I’m not sure I could have got Mark out of there for several hours!

Izakaya

Izakaya is traditional Japanese pub style food – lots of small dishes to share cooked in front of us.

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Teppanyaki

The teppan is a hot plate where food is cooked.  In this restaurant we had our own and had to cook our own food.  here are some pictures of Mark cooking okomoniyaki (Japanese pancakes) on our teppan.

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Yakatori

This was our Christmas dinner, after a good day of skiing.  Yakatori is food on small skewers here we enjoyed many good things including peppers, mushrooms, chicken (for Mark) and also scallops and crab (not traditionally yakatori but very much from Hokkaido!).

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Happy New Year and Japanese New Year Cards

The Japanese do not celebrate Christmas traditionally although they have embraced the season with decorations and carols in all the shops! Typically it’s more for couples than family with couples having a romantic meal on Christmas Eve.

Christmas cards are not part of the celebration.

In Japan it is the changing of the years that is celebrated and families come together for the first 3 days of he year with the main celebrations on the first.

Cards are sent but these are postcards rather than Western style folded cards and they are labelled so that the post office does not deliver them until the 1st! This is in stark contrast to the UK where cards must be sent extra early and cards are delayed by the volume of Christmas post – in Japan they hold onto cards until the day itself (New Year in this case) and deliver all together!

So although not posted I’m delivering my New Year card to you all on the 1st of January. It’s based on my Christmas card that some may have received and on a painting I did of Japanese cranes.

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I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Exciting New Year!