A Walk in the Gardens

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Recently, I visited a friend who lives in Kyoto and we went to the famous Heian Jingu shrine and attached gardens. The shrine was built to commemorate when Kyoto was originally founded as Japan’s capital in the year 794. It’s known for being built in Heian-style architecture as well as hosting a large and beautiful garden.

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Autumn Leaves

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It’s been a while! Sorry for the radio silence, life has been pretty busy lately. This post is all about momiji–the Japanese word for maple leaves. During autumn, Shiso (and Japan in general) is bursting with these beautifully-colored leaves. I’ve lived in the sub-tropics all my life, so I’ve never had an opportunity to really see what leaves changing colors in autumn was like. I’ve honestly never seen how incredibly vibrant nature can be during this time of year, so it was a huge and wonderful surprise.

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Return to Himeji

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I’m back in Himeji, this time for a visit to the one thing everyone should see in Himeji–Himeji Castle. My friend (and fellow ALT) Tanya went with me for a day trip, and thankfully the weather was gorgeous. More pictures of the castle (interior and exterior) within.

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First Trip to Himeji

Hi there, everyone. It’s been a while since my last update, and that’s largely because the fall school semester has finally begun. I spent the last few weeks prepping for my upcoming classes, along with assisting in preparations for the school’s Taiikusai/Undoukai, otherwise known as Sports Day. More on that in another update. Today I’m going to talk about my recent trip to Himeji, a city that’s just under an hour’s drive south of Shiso. Himeji City is the closest real “city” to Shiso, so people take frequent trips there. Himeji’s most famous landmark is Himeji Castle, which is a feudal lord’s fort that dates back to the 14th century. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and is often used for films set during the Meiji period. If you’ve seen The Last Samurai, you’ve seen Himeji Castle.

But this post isn’t really about Himeji Castle, although I do have some pictures near the end. This post is about the Himeji City Aquarium, where my fellow teachers at my middle school took me for an unexpected day off.

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Obon and Kobe

Last Saturday, August 13th, was the Obon Festival in Shiso. Obon is a big celebration for Japanese people; it’s the day of honoring and remembering one’s ancestors, and is traditionally a time when Japanese people travel all over the country (and sometimes the world) to visit and be with their families. Although it involves remembrance of the dead, Obon is not exactly a somber celebration. It’s a huge festival, with dances, taiko performances, games, food, and most importantly, fireworks.

Needless to say, I had a blast. My camera was fussing for most of the night, however, so I didn’t get many good pictures. I will share the ones I have, however.

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The Yugettan House Museum

The Yugettan House is a treasure in the heart of Shiso. Hand-built in 1963 by the Maeda family, it’s a traditional Japanese-style abode that is the home of some truly beautiful Japanese crafts, antiques, and other everyday items used by generations past. The second floor of the house has been renovated and turned into a museum of the many items in the Maeda family’s collection. These items include dolls, books, paintings, tea cups, pipes, and so forth.

I first came to the Yugettan House at the generous invitation of her current owner, Maeda Michiyo. Michiyo-san hosts cultural classes every week, and her range of talents is wide and impressive. Calligraphy, ikebana (flower arranging), sumi-e (ink painting), oshi-e (doll making), tea ceremony, and kimono making are some of the workshops she offers. The first time I met Michiyo-san, she hosted a dinner for me and my ALT predecessor where we cooked, ate, and laughed together while watching a DVD of a Takarazuka performance. (Elisabeth, if you’re a fan) The second time I met Michiyo-san, we made takoyaki together the night before the big summer festival of Obon–more on that in another post.

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