Julie in Japan

I find myself on the Pacific rim of fire!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Farewell to Japan

So much to remember, fish for dinner; my hairdresser; Koson; sweet sumo wrestlers; parents and children and their last presentation a kiwi puppet show....

Monday, 10 December 2007

Making soba

It was so nice to be invited into this family and see dad hard at work making soba noodles. Soba noodles are native Japanese noodles made of buckwheat flour (soba-ko) and wheat flour (komugi-ko). They are roughly as thick as spaghetti, and prepared in various hot and cold dishes. The most basic soba dish is zaru soba in which boiled, cold soba noodles are eaten with a soya based dipping sauce (tsuyu).

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The news from Japan...

A couple of articles that have caught my eye lately...Slipping 11 ranks from a year ago, Japan took 91st place in terms of gender equality among the worlds 128 countries. (New Zealand squeezed into the top five.) The stats reflect the gaps women face in economic participation, educational qualifications, health and political empowerment.

Japans schools flunking at global level....at a symposium it was decided Japan is in need of sweeping revamp to remain competitive on a global scale.
Only three Japanese universities are in the top 100 World University Rankings for 2006.
Concern was voiced about the tendency of Japanese youth becoming less outgoing and losing the spirit of seeking a challenge.

No suprises here...inexpensive bluefin days are gone and tuna's too, now numbered.

And on a more heartening note...Democratic Party supports the Dalai Lama because his activities are considered religious; for greater autonomy for Tibet.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Catching up with some NZ bands in Japan, great!

The beautiful Hinewehi our famed Maori poet and singer in New Zealand was the star attraction for me. I have enjoyed her music for years so it was great to see her live, what an enchanting voice.

Nesian Mystik is a HipHop/Pop/Polynesian group, whose cultural backgrounds include Maori, Tongan, Samoan and Cook Island/ Aitutaki. The diversity Nesian Mystik harnesses creates a sound which is uniquely their own, combining rap, soulful harmonies, scratching, and guitaring that has become the signature for these talented men. They were so much fun and had the Japanese up and dancing...at noon!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Izu Penninsula

Last weekend I went with my friend to the Izu Peninsula in her car; which made a bit of a change from always catching the train.
The beach was at the end of the Peninsula, far away from the other horrendous tourist developments with massive concrete block hotels. It was a small undeveloped country place with golden sand and turquoise water. It was a fantastic weekend of weather, good enough to go swimming. In Japan everyone stops swimming in October and the beaches are officially closed! I was the only swimmer and my friend would have little to do with me on the beach in my togs. Yet the water was so warm. We stayed in a Japanese B&B except we got dinner as well, for the most elaborate feed and comfortable bed. Dinner included many varieties of dishes; raw fish, meat, pickles, prawn, potato dish, rice with all sorts of goodies in it, spring rolls with meat & veggies inside and steamed fish, tofu dish; it was so filling and gorgeous what an array, what a feast. Breakfast was also a delight pictured below: melon, rice, salad, egg, salmon.

The house was nestled in some lovely countryside and even the bathroom was spring water, natural and soft on the skin, a huge big bath. The owners were so nice and it was great having Naoko with me to translate. We even found a nice coffee place with a bakery on our travels to top it all off. However we were stuck in a traffic jam on the way home: a mass exodus back to the big smoke afterall this is the biggest city in the world.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Carnival at School, Japanese children perform a Maori Poi Dance

My children are learning all about Maori, kiwi and how to save endangered species, especially whales.

They will be the nations future demonstrators against pilaging the ocean and land, that is my fervent wish.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Eerie Signs; concrete eruption shelters and loudspeakers,

Oshima Island

Oshima Island

If you click on the second photo you will just make out Fujisan.

October has been really beautiful weather. (Ask me how much I am missing spring weather in Franz...) Last weekend I enjoyed taking a high speed hydrofoil to Oshima Island, part of Izu Seven Islands group, peaks of a submerged volcano chain not all that far from the mainland. Mihara san is a semi dormant volcano that last erupted in 1986. I camped by the south coast and enjoyed a dip in a hot spring. Luxury.

The Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

My best fun was riding on the Chao Phraya River, the backbone of a network of canals, floating markets and waterside temples. By taking a boat for over an hour up the river, past sand barges and canoes I managed to escape the bulk of tourists. From there I chartered my own longtailed boat to an island, just ten sq kms with no roads (with my Japanese yen I was feeling flush). The villagers use motorbikes to get round, great to be away from the busy traffic. After the hectic time in Bangkok this was a perfect escape. There I ate mussels at a stall and walked right round the island past lush vegetation. I came across potteries and kilns; the islands clay is rich for fruit, banana trees, coconut palms, papaya with traditional wooden houses above the marshy ground on stilts.

The Golden Palace

The Golden Palace, beautiful colours, shapes, a bit like walking onto a sumptuously set stage. This is Thailand’s holiest temple. It’s a huge complex and the public only get to see a wee bit of it all.

Bangkok, whirlwind trip for a visa

I had a fantastic Thai meal the first night; it was beautiful with fresh flowers and Thai art and antiques. The food oh! So good! Real herbs and spices I haven’t tasted since I was last here

Fruit the other luxury, is to be found everywhere; neatly sliced in hawkers carts and blended into delicious fruit shakes.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


I met this family along the way and had a chat; Japanese people are the most pleasant people.
Oze is Japans`s largest marsh, formed when larva from a volcano created this natural dam. It is wonderful for plants.

To make coversation about an iris - one pleasure of the hike. Basho
I caught the overnight bus here from Shinjuku. Shinjuku is one of the worlds busiest train stations so I arrived five hours too early in case I couldn`t find the bus station however found it within the first half hour. Lucky my fav Thai restaurant is there and the pink light area, kept me well entertained.

The bus was none too comfy. I arrived at 5am and hiked from the carpark (1591m) to Shibutsu-san (2228m). Back to the marsh and a night at beautiful Jujiro, with a wander out the next day.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Johinestu Kogen

After Jo left Japan I went on a tramp and camped all alone. I put up the tent and cooked a meal that would have done two to four people. I ate it all despite feeling a bit lonely.

As usual a whole lot of planning with many phone calls to organise the hike; without the aid of my Japanese friends (I’ve got about two), it would be very difficult.

This was on a high plateau rising with the high peaks about 2500m. The bus stop was at 1973m so there wasn’t so much climbing to do, however with I hadn’t packed the night before because there was yet another work gathering, any excuse does this lot to get onto the beer. It was still a big one, despite my guide book stating it was `not so hard`.

From Fujisawa 5.30am to Tokyo. The bullet train from Tokyo then by bus to the top, I arrived at 10 am. But I will do anything to see an active volcano! Asamayama is actually three on top of each other, there have been 71 eruptions recorded, some nothing but gaseous explosions, others such as in 1783 when 1600 people in the villages below were killed.

I went up in the sunshine in the bus however by the time I got there and started hiking the cloud was enough to stop good views so I was a bit disappointed though not in cloud myself it was a coming and going above and below. Its good training I told myself trying to stay positive but by the 6th hour walking along the ridge reading about the fantastic views in my guide book I`d had it At this stage I had come off my high point for the day at 2212m down to a place for wildflower lovers to go. With two cars in the car park I was lucky to get a ride with one of those parties in a van to the camp site saving a further 1 hour 40 minute walk to the camp site, yay.

Low and behold if the cloud didn’t clear the next morning! So I headed backwards, hitching a ride back up the mountain for fear of it clagging in again if it took too long to walk. I got a ride at 7.30am with a guy who worked at the wildflowers place at the car park. He kept saying “What is your name?” the only words of English he knew. Japan is safe hitching, another bonus.

Retracing my steps from the day before what a beautiful surprise, I saw all I had missed; to the Japanese Alps, still with a smattering of snow, Mt. Fuji, the Minami Alps. Chichibu, the Kita Alps and my smoldering mountain, a perfect volcano shape. Couldn’t believe my luck because just as I started back down toward the bus stop (on the way I indulged in a hot spring bath in a hotel that was beautiful and well deserved) the cloud did start to roll in and by the time I was off the mountain it was clagged in. I felt sorry for those just setting off. Mind you, no doubt they had just enjoyed an evening in a hot springs hotel eating and drinking, bathing and enjoying a long breakfast, why can’t I be like them?


Nikko is well known for it`s temples. My Japanese friend was horrified when I said we had bypassed all of them heading straight for the mountain tops.

We arrived an hour after a typhoon had been through and the weather came right. Guess ya get lucky sometimes.

Yudaki Falls sorry about this one folks, but when in Japan do as the others do.....