Some observations from travels


2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Weekly Travel Themes: Benches

I love taking photos of benches, preferably when they’re empty however, I do not mind when someone is enjoying their comfort.  In last week’s Travel Theme challenge benches are on order.  So here is my (rather late) contribution to the many others who have already shared their beautiful benches as well.

I hope you all have a great week.

The Historical Town of Takayama

We had the chance to visit another part of the what is known in Japan as the Central Honshu.  Described by tour books as the region that shows the contrasts of present Japan – with its densely populated coastal cities whilst in the middle the highest and wildest mountains can be found.  Whilst the region is very accessible to travel it has kept its traditional rural lifestyles, architecture and festivals.

Last Sunday, the 14th of April was the first day of Takayama’s world renown Spring Festival – Sanno Matsuri.  The festival is a celebration of the guardian deity of the southern half of the ‘old town’ Takayama to welcome spring as well as pray for good harvest and peace for the year.  The main event of the festival is the parade of 12 yatais (festival floats.)  Later in the year after the hot days of summer Takayama then celebrates the Autumn Festival where there are 11 of these yatais on show.  They are believed to date back as far as the 17th century.  The current Takayama spring festival in the Ishikawa Prefecture have been celebrated for the past 40 years.

Every float has its own unique design with very intricate details.  They were very beautiful!  Here are photos of the floats but I haven’t named them individually as I do not wish to misquote their names.


Walking through the old town we experienced the beautifully preserved Edo period merchant’s businesses and private homes.  Takayama is not only known for these festivals.  The city is also well-known for the numerous sake breweries and gourmet restaurants.  The old town was awarded the highest 3-star Michelin travel award as a destination worth travelling.


Aside from the beautiful festival and old preserved streets, it was the spirit of the locals that I loved the most.  These festival participants were very proud of their heritage.  The police and volunteers were very helpful, considering there were many lost (tourists) souls with their guide books and cameras.  Here is my tribute to the lovely people of Hida Takayama.


We truly enjoyed our brief day in Takayama.  Our only wish was if we could have stayed to watch the night festival when the floats were lit and went around the city streets once more.  But…there’s always next time.  I look forward to visiting the city again to explore the many temples and I can’t wait!

When you do get the chance to visit, It is really worth it!  And stay the night if you can.

Hida Takayama’s detailed website is here.

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 6 – Nagoya Stroll Course

6 down and 6 more to go! I reckon I’m going to finish this course, which is a bit of a challenge for me, starting something and going for it every week.  I hope you are still enjoying following these courses as some of them are a bit boring, but I’m counting on the bigger picture to knowing the city I am in at the moment to be more than just what it seems in touristy brochures.

This course takes us to the modern side of Nagoya – “that continues to modernise; a profound city that combines modernity with human warmth.” That’s the intro quote from this week’s Chapter 6 of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  When I read through this week’s course I thought – easy! it’s my immediate neighbourhood!  So I took advantage of the power of editing and took this course leisurely.  So, here we go for this week’s stroll.  Enjoy!

1.  Nagoya Station Mae.  The station Mae is famous for the number of skyscrapers in a small area around the Nagoya Station.  Originally opened in 1886, surrounded by marsh, in what was then considered an outlying area of the city.  Formerly a wooden station building reformed in 1937 to what is now a modern structure.  After WWII the area became a commercial area with the city’s first underground commercial facility in 1937.

The station is complex and crowded.  When walking around to find something I have lost my way here many times, but my trick was to keep walking around and it seems to just take you back around where you first started.  Eventually, you will find what you were looking for in the first place.  I have included Nana-chan in the photo gallery as she is considered one of the main meeting points when you get to Nagoya Station.


2.  Yanagibashi Central Wholesale Market.  Markets in this area started as a group of wholesalers in the late Meiji Period (1868-1912).  This area is famous both with the local and international tourists.  A short walk from the Nagoya Station in the city centre and a rarity in Japan.

When I arrived at the market street around midday the whole area was clean, quiet and closed.  Only when I listened to the podcast did I learn that this market was mostly opened during the morning.  There were still some stalls closing up, but I did not miss taking photos of the life after the rush.


3.  Nayabashi Bridge.  Nayabashi Bridge spans the Horikawa River, which flows from the north to the south through the center of Nagoya, both believed to be built in 1610 in conjunction with the building of the Nagoya Castle.  The current retro bridge was re-built in 1981.  Recently, restaurants and cafes are popular around the bridge and along the river.


4.  Nagoya City Science Museum.  Opened in 2011 the dome belongs to the Brother Earth Planetarium of the Nagoya City Science Museum, one of Japan’s finest comprehensive museums and the world’s largest.  Once inside one may experience standing in an artificial tornado as well as being in an aurora laboratory in -30 degrees celsius.

Unfortunately, I have not been inside this museum as all the tours and instructions are in Japanese.  I just enjoy the changes it goes through the year.


5.  Sunshine Sakae.  The Sky Boat ferris wheel is the first sight that stands out of downtown Sakae area.  The building is known for various entertainment venues, restaurants, pubs and cafes.  Popular amongst the younger Japanese crowd as well as those who want to experience a little bit of Japanese pop culture.


6.  Oasis 21.  Another icon in downtown Sakae area is the Oasis 21.  This facility consists of a park, bus terminal, connections to the subway, underground shopping and the Aichi Arts Centre.  The Milky Way Plaza/Galaxy Platform on the basement level hosts many events throughout the year.  Visitors can enjoy a grassy area to rest and enjoy a day in Nagoya on the Field of Green level and provides a quick access to the Aichi Arts Centre.  One can enjoy walking along the periphery and enjoy the sights of the city of the Spaceship Aqua on the rooftop level where water flows along the glass surface of the roof.


7.  Nagoya TV Tower.  A symbol of downtown Nagoya since 1954 the Nagoya TV Tower stands 180 meters tall.  One can enjoy relaxing in the cafe and beer garden on the ground level; banquets and parties on the upper level; and 360-degree view of the city at the top level.  The tower was designated as a Lover’s Sanctuary in 2008.

This is an interesting tower at towards one end of the Hisaya-odori park.  It holds open air markets, special event at the beer garden and popular for weddings.  I will be back one night to take night photos of the city as this is highly recommended.


I enjoyed this course even though I have walked through these streets and sights many times.  I hope you have as well.  Here are links to the previous chapters if you are interested.  Have a great week everyone.

Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course

Chapter 2: Course covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path

Chapter 3: Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 5 – Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

This chapter’s course takes us through the origin of the ‘Manufacturing Kingdom Nagoya.’  Nagoya’s manufacturing industry contributes to the core industries that help build the modern Japan.  So let’s go for a bit of walk around the manufacturing side of Nagoya.

1.  Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.  Established in 1994 by the Toyota group utilising the red brick factory building built in 1911 and preserved as an important industrial asset.  The importance of manufacturing is shown here as the birthplace of Toyota group.

The museum is quite detailed with both textile machinery and automotive pavilions.  These machineries are manned with live demonstrations.  Unless you are an automotive buff or have a passion for machineries, this museum was rather too technical for my taste.


2.  Noritake Garden.  Since 1904 Noritake started as a manufacturer of porcelain tableware for exporting.  The garden was established to commemorate Noritake’s 100th anniversary. The garden has various facilities including a museum of porcelain production history, a craft centre, showrooms and lifestyle shops and cafe.  The garden itself showcases many historical features such as The Six Chimneys which shows the remains of old chimneys as a testament to Noritake as one of the world’s leading tableware manufacturers.  Along the garden walls a retaining wall was made using old bricks from the foundation of the original factory building.  Attached to the wall, known as the “Kiln Wall” are plates inscribed with donors to the Noritake Garden Foundation.  Around the garden an old single kiln can be seen, an old factory gate, and a relaxing fountain plaza lined with trees and flowers.

This is a beautiful garden covered with seasonal trees – which can be enjoyed at different times of the year.  You do not need to be a big fan of fine porcelain tableware to admire the beauty of this museum and garden.  Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed within the museum areas.  I spent more time just sitting outside admiring the flower beds and trees.


3.  Bean’s Confectionary/Mamefuku Main Store.  Famous for manufacturing confectionary in Nagoya since 1939.  Their main products are traditional soy bean snacks made from large soybeans harvested in Hokkaido.  These types of snacks are popular in Japan for their rich nutritional values.  The store runs classes as well as tours.



4.  Candy and Toy Wholesale Stores Street.  The street is lined with wholesalers displaying boxes of traditional sweets since 1923 whilst the Nagoya Castle was being built.  The construction people would visit the street to purchase their supply of confection.  After WWII air raids the area recovered quickly and became known to supply confection and toys.

This was a nice street to walk through as the colourful display of confection and the collection from simple to the weird-looking toys on sale here are quite enticing.


5.  Nagoya Japanese Fan (Suehirodou).  Alongside Kyoto, Nagoya is known for producing traditional folding fans.  Kyoto’s folding fans are more luxurious used by ladies in their traditional Japanese dance.  Nagoya’s folding fans are used more for ceremonial events such as weddings and fans designed for men.



6.  Japanese Kite (Takomo Original Store).  Nagoya is famous for producing traditional Japanese kites.  The original Takomo building and precious materials were burned down during WWII air raids.  However, traditional techniques are still used to make these kites until today.  Their designs are popular as interior decorations for many homes.  The store offers tours and workshops such as taking your own photo or design and making an original kite.


7.  Nagoya Black Kimonos with Crests (Yamekatsu Senko).  The traditional black kimono with crest are unique to Nagoya.  These black-dyed kimonos are worn during formal occasions and for mourning are dyed with family crests using traditional time-consuming process.  Since the Edo period in the 17th century the Owari clan designated a dying expert to design flags and banners that later on extended to the dyeing of formal kimonos.  The present Yamekatsu Senko offers tours and workshops to experience the black dyeing process.



There was a part (Shoes Design and Craft School) that I skipped and decided to miss out during this walking tour.  My overall experience during this chapter’s tour was that it was quite technical, except for Noritake Garden which I thoroughly enjoyed and will visit again.  The course distance was quite long but it was interesting to walk through the small streets and discover another side to Nagoya than the ones I am familiar with.

I hope you continue to enjoy exploring the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour with me.  If you would like to have a peek at the previous chapters they are here:

Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course

Chapter 2: Course covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path

Chapter 3: Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Enjoy your spring time wherever you are in the world.  Until next time.

Travel Theme: Time

The Travel Theme for last week was about Time.  I don’t recall taking many photos of clock or any time telling objects.  However, A few months ago on a weekend in Tokyo, Japan, I did not forget this unusual looking clock.

Time clock with a map of Japan

Time clock with a map of Japan

Astronomical clock

Astronomical clock

Both clocks were on a tall post in a commercial/business area.  One clock face shows the current time and the zodiac stars, possibly where in the country was the vantage point to view them.  The other face shows an elaborate map of the zodiac signs, their time during the year and the time of day from sunrise to sunset.  Unique!

Don’t forget to visit Where’s My Backpack for more contributions to this week’s challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

It’s Saturday, 30th March, somewhere in Nagoya, Japan. This was my day.

I know, some of us have to work on Saturdays. I had an easy day today, it started with a sunny outlook this morning. Every morning when I get up the first thing I do is look out the window to see how the day is starting. After breakfast I walk through the park and science museum for the subway station. Everyday, except on Mondays and maybe on public holidays, there would be a long queue of people trying to get into the museum. I take the subway to work as it is fast and reliable. Then I walk up the hill, lined with cherry blossoms, to my work.

I normally work with kids but today they were off for spring break and all we did was prepping for next term. As it was a gorgeous day my colleagues and I had lunch at the park close to work. The streets were busy with people enjoying their Hanami-viewing cherry blossoms. After work I usually stop by a local grocer next to the subway station for a bit of shopping.

When I walked back from the station neighbours were enjoying the day at the park. Once I get home it’s a series of chores-putting the washing on, emptying the dishwasher, putting on fresh sheets, dusting off the floor. Somedays are not as intense as this. Then I enjoy a cup of tea to settle down my blood. When I’m not too tired (after spending a day with 15+ pre-ks) I do a set of yoga.

Sunset did not show tonight. It was obscured by a thick cloud. On to the rest of my relaxing ritual, check what’s on tele-I opted for ‘Shall We Dance.’ Then check emails, Facebook, WordPress. And finally, who said we can’t multi-task that with a glass of merlot! What’s for dinner? Who knows.

That was my typical Saturday. What about yours? I hope you all have a great weekend.

PS. In the interest of keeping in tune with this months’ phoneography challenge, I did all photos and text here. I still struggle with editing photos into a captioned tiled gallery. So I cheated a bit and inserted my gallery through my laptop and finishing this post on my phone. I tried, truly.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

Twelve pictures to sum up the year that has gone (so quick!)  It had been a pleasure knowing and enjoying everyone’s posts here.  I hope you have enjoyed my journey throughout the year as much as I have.  For sure I have enjoyed reading through everyone’s blogs and learning more each day.

Here’s to the year ahead of more exciting blogging for all of us!!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

I just love these photos I took of a solitary dog at the beach in Koh Samui, quite content with the peace and quiet.  Scenes like these would not have been possible in some overly crowded holiday places.  This scene also represented how beautiful life on this island was – dogs were still welcome to wander and laze around.

Solitary is a state of being alone.  I treasure solitary moments.  Some people are not comfortable with being alone – they feel it’s always lonely when you’re alone.  I don’t think being alone and solitary is lonely.  Do you think this dog is lonely?  I don’t think so..he seemed content.

How about you, are you comfortable being solitary in a busy world around us?

Lavender is for lovers true…

Lavender is for lovers true,

Which evermore be faine;

Desiring always for to have Some pleasure for their paine:

And when that they obtained have The love that they require,

Then have they all their perfect joie,

And quenched is the fire. (C Robinson)

My recent posts have been about flowers, I know, what can I do…it’s left over from spring and showing off summer.  My recent visit to the Arakogawa Park and Garden Plaza was during their Lavender Festival.  Lavender is one of my most favourite flowers not only for its perfume but for its many uses – especially settling me during sleepless nights.  Its name comes from the Latin word, Lavare, to wash.  And indeed smelling lavender makes you think of soaps or fresheners, that is why I do not like them so much on food.

Arakogawa Park and Garden Plaza is a short subway ride on the Aonami line from Nagoya station.  The park is not very big and quite easy to walk around.  It features a sunken garden where the gardeners were busy replanting the seasonal flower beds.  There is a small Japanese garden, an adventure playground for the kids, plant and garden exhibition areas as well as gardening consultations and classes available for the enthusiast out there.  The lavender garden is a permanent feature garden and available all year round, except there won’t be as many flowers when it’s not in season.

I have always dreamt of running through fields of lavender, like those ones you see in featured photos.  However, this experience had a small field and I only had to stroll through it to cover the whole ‘field.’  All I could take away from my experience that day was the unforgettable perfume, unlike those that have been dried or processed…it was heavenly!  I hope you enjoy some of the photos I took that day.

Japanese Garden

The exhibition centre featured everything to do with lavender including art work, crafts and the process of making a lavender oil.  They sold seedlings of some common varieties as well as lavender ice cream!  Yes, lavender ice cream…but, I already said my piece about lavender in food.  All around the park there were snippets of my other favourite – Hydrangea.  So you can guess what’s blooming next round this garden theme…