Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A night out in Osaka! Raves and Host bars!!

21st July 2007

Well I had to take Kate out in Osaka and what better way to show her the Japanese nightlife than to take her to a Host bar and a rave!

It definitely wasn't the best looking host bar but it was fun and very interesting for Kate!

This guy was called "takoyaki" (octopus ball)! He was the butt of everyones jokes! (Yes that is one tuft of hair on his head!)

Kate and I with one of the hosts!

All of us with the hosts!

Joule had a huge party night on which was cool to see all the people but the music was not quite what we were used to - trance!

Inside Joule!

Kate and I in Joule.

It was a great night though and Kate enjoyed a night out in one of the biggest cities in Japan!

Kyoto with Kate!

25th -26th July 2007

Kate and I have just spent another 2 days in beautiful Kyoto to give her a chance to see some more wonderful sights. However I think these 2 days were the hottest days yet in Japan! It was still 29 degrees when we went out at night!

On the 25th of every month there is a huge market that is held at the Kitano Tenmangu shrine. We wandered around for the morning and Kate managed to buy 3 kimonos! Then we headed to Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) which is my favourite place in Kyoto.

Kate at the markets.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavillion)

I decided to take Kate to see a traditional Japanese Maiko dance however we somehow fell into a tourist trap! I have to say it was pretty bad – the tour buses should have given it away! Anyway Kate and I saw traditional dance, bunraku (Japanese puppetry), Ikebana (flower arranging), Koto (traditional Japanese instrument), Kyogen (comic plays) and a tea ceremony. It was all done especially for tourists. It was interesting but I would not recommend it . . . unless you want to see tourists sleeping and talking at the wrong times and having their unnecessary audio guides way too loud! ☺

Maiko dancers.

Gion district.

The river in the Gion district - there are so many people in this area in summer! It's a very cool place to be!

The next day we went to Fushimi Inari shrine which has the red torii gates where Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed. It is a beautiful shrine with many red torii gates leading in different directions. The shrine has many fox statues as he is the god which the shrine is dedicated to and he protects the rice fields – you pray to him for a good harvest. Kate and I re-enacted and filmed the scene from Memoirs of a Geisha only to discover that we run funny!

We then went to Ni-jo castle which I have visited before but it is such a beautiful castle that it is worth going back to. It still has all the interior screens in place so you get a feel of what it would have been like originally. The floor is amazing as it has been designed to detect intruders – it is called a nightingale floor as no matter where you step on it you make a noise like a bird. Unfortunately you are not able to take photos in order to protect the gold screens but I bought a print of one of the screens.

The gate leading to the castle.

The screen that I bought.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Amanohashidate – Rich girl holiday!

22nd – 24th July 2007

Kate and I had planned to go somewhere new for me for a few days and since it is summer we thought the perfect place to go would be Amanohashidate. Amanohashidate is 3hours north east from Himeji and is a beach town. The main attraction is Miyazu bay and the “Bridge to Heaven”. It is a lagoon that has been created by a sandbar which joins the two peninsulas. The “bridge” (sandbar) is 4 km long and has pine trees and a white sand beach.

We arrived at the train station to be greeted by a guy holding a scroll – Kate wondered if he was for us but I wasn’t sure, but he was! He then led us to a car which was like a Rolls Royce! We sat in the back with so much room! We kept laughing thinking who are we?! Rich girls! He drove us to our hotel which was really nice. We went for a short bike ride but it began to rain so we headed back to the hotel. Our dinner and breakfast was included in our package so we enjoyed a 6 course meal each night and a “biking” breakfast (I love it! It is really called a viking breakfast as it is all you can eat but the cute way Japanese people say it sounds like “biking”!)

Us with the "fancy car"!!

Our hotel.

The next day we went to the cable car which goes up a mountain to give you a full view of the sandbar. It is one of the 3 best views in Japan! Luckily the rain cleared up and we had a good view of it. The funny thing is you have to put your back to the sandbar and look through your legs! Then you get to see the “Bridge to Heaven”! It does appear to be floating when you look at it from that angle! We then went to the temple in town and hired some bikes to ride across the sandbar. We rode a little way along the sandbar and came to a shop with snow cones – Kate wanted to try one so we stopped and the man at the shop told us where to park our bikes. As we are enjoying our snow cones I look up and our bikes have disappeared! We ask the man and he explains that he just hired out 2 bikes for 20mins and they must have taken ours! So we wait and eventually they come back – luckily! We ended up riding along the whole sandbar and back and stopped to walk in the water but it was too cold to swim!

The sandbar.

Kate and I.

How you are meant to look at the "bridge to heaven"!

What it looks like from that angle!

The snowcone!

Where we rode along the sandbar.

The Beach.

For our last day in Amanohashidate we went for a short trip to a local fishing village called Ine. It is a very small village where all the houses are right on the water and they have carports for their boats which are actually parked under their house! It would be a great place to go out in a boat as the water was such a beautiful green colour. We also saw old women drying fish on bamboo screens.

Ine - the fishing village.

Fish drying.

Fishing boat.

So sadly our “rich girl” holiday had to come to an end but we both had a fantastic time!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

しののめ party! Part 1 and Part 2!

13th and 18th July 2007

しののめ is the name of the special class at my Junior High School. I have taught the students (only 4 of them) about once every two weeks since January. I really enjoy teaching them as they are always so excited for English lessons. I was told that they were planning a farewell party for me as I will soon be going to a different Junior High School. So I had a farewell party in two parts!

Part one – the students taught me about traditional Japanese stories and used a story board to read one to me. They also taught me about Sumo and Origami and taught me how to make a paper crane and they also showed me how to spin a Japanese spinning top! At the end of the lesson I was awarded with hand made medals on paper chains!

The program for the farewell lesson - I am the picture on the right!

The student who taught me how to make a paper crane.

The story board.

The class (4 students), Mr Kimura and me with my medals!!

Part two – the students with the help of their teacher taught me how to make mochi (sticky rice balls eaten as a sweet). It was Kinako-mochi which means the rice balls are covered with a dust made from soybeans with sugar. So we ate the delicious mochi and had green tea. I had bought vegemite sandwiches, minties and tim tams for the students to try. All but one liked the vegemite sandwich!

Making the mochi.

Getting messy!

Rolling the mochi into balls!

The mochi before being cooked.

Boiling the mochi.

The finished product - yum!

They are such nice students I will really miss them!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Gion Matsuri – Kyoto

16th – 17th July

Today was a public holiday so we headed to Kyoto for the Gion festival – it is the biggest (I think) in Japan! Unfortunately we lost about 3 hours of our day as there had been an accident and the trains were delayed but we still managed to see one of my favourite sites in Kyoto - Kiyomizu-dera.

The main part of Kiyomizu.

All of us at Kiyomizu.

Kiyomizu-dera consists of a pagoda, temples, sacred water that you can catch to drink and a love shrine! At the love shrine I bought a charm for “finding love”! and I did what Tina calls the “walk of shame”! You have to walk from one rock to the other with your eyes closed and if you make it you will find true love! I will have to wait and see! ☺

Info about the “walk of shame” and the love stones!

Me starting the “walk”!!!

Kate catching the sacred water!

The Gion festival began as a way for residents in the Gion area to display their beautiful art and artefacts. For three nights leading up to the 17th July residents open their doors so you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful things that they own.

Kate and I in our yukata!

All the people in the Gion area.

All of us at the Gion festival in our yukata!

Looking through a door into a beautiful Japanese house.

During the night we wandered around looking into houses and seeing the floats that would be used in the parade the next day. We also enjoyed wonderful festival food – like fried chicken, takoyaki, toffee fruit and frozen bananas!

The beautiful floats at night with lanterns.

The other part of the festival is a parade which occurs on the 17th July and consists of 32 floats covered in beautiful fabrics which have huge wagon wheels. The floats are extremely tall and have quite a bit of trouble turning corners. To turn the corner the men put down bamboo slats and water. It was a great parade to see and there were so many people there!

The floats.

We then went by train to Arashiyama which is just outside of Kyoto. We hired bikes and went to Seiryo-ji (temple). Kate and I went into the temple and got to see the gardens and when we were in the main area a man waved us over and said that we could put special powdered incense on the fire to pray.

The temple.

Temple gardens.

Kate in the temple garden.

We then rode up a very steep hill to Adashino Nembutsu-ji where there are hundreds of budda rocks and gravestones. There is also a beautiful bamboo forest.

Budda rocks.

Bamboo forest.

Then we rode up another steep hill to go to Ghioh-ji (temple). It is a small temple which has an amazing moss covered garden.

We then got to ride down a very steep hill to get to Togetsukyo bridge! It is a huge bridge where many people hang out and enjoy the sunshine.

It was a busy two days but I really enjoyed both days and I think it was a great way for Kate to start her holiday – especially with the Gion festival as it is one of the most popular and famous festivals in Japan!