Autumn on Mt Fuji
Autumn arrives early on Mt Fuji where the Karamatsu (Japanese Larch) in the “oniwa,” or garden, and “oku-oniwa,” or inner garden, are stunted, making for a strange landscape reminiscent of Hobbit Land. Those who make it to the one of the viewpoints are rewarded with stunning views of clouds above a mountain range in the distance and, if lucky, the Southern Alps of Japan further afield.
A half-hour drive from Matsumoto city in Nagano prefecture, along snaking roads with countless twists and turns through densely forested mountain terrain, lies Myojinkan(明神館), a secluded Japanese-style ryokan, or upscale inn, with a difference. Like many quality ryokan, Myojinkan offers spacious rooms tastefully decorated in a contemporary Japanese minimalist style, several communal baths and meals worthy of at least a couple of Michelin stars, served in elegant dining rooms. The distinctive aspect of Myojinkan is its location deep in the… Read more »
Ryokan Kurashiki – a taste of 19th century Japan
Towards the end of World War Two, when US bombs rained over many Japanese cities, Kurashiki was spared, the story goes, thanks to the presence of the Ohara Museum. A high-ranking US general with a passion for art prevented Kurashiki from being destroyed because he wanted to preserve the Ohara Museum and its collection of paintings by El Greco, Monet, Renoir and Gauguin, among others. That, at least, is the story we were told by our guide and skipper on… Read more »
Hitachi Seaside Park
A taste of early autumn at Hitachi Seaside Park (ひたち海浜公園) in Ibaraki Prefecture. The crimson colored Kochia (broom) plants are in season and can be leisurely enjoyed, along with other beautiful flowers, as one strolls through the vast park. Play areas for children and a disc golf area for the young at heart, are also available.
Rishiri, Rebun, Wakkanai
The sky is big and the waves are rough along the stretch of sea that separates Japan from its northern neighbour, Russia. We are staring out across the Soya Strait from Wakkanai (稚内), on the northwestern tip of Hokkaido. On a clear day, it is possible to catch a glimpse of Sakhalin, Russia’s largest island that lies just 159 kilometres away. But today, the clouds are thick, the wind is swift and Sakhalin is shrouded in haze beyond the grayish… Read more »
Spider Lilies at Kinchakuda
Rows and rows of bright red spider lilies found in Saitama prefecture’s Kinchakuda (巾着田). Kinchaku means a drawstring pouch. The lilies grow along a river which is shaped like a drawstring pouch. Viewable until early October.
Matsumoto Craft Fair
It was the last weekend in May and I was happy to be back in Matsumoto (松本) after an absence of a few years. I was one of the scores of visitors making my way to the annual craft fair. The city in Nagano Prefecture is about three hours from Tokyo on the Azusa Line, and I took a train that would get me to the city with time to spare for the opening of the craft fair at 11… Read more »
If you don’t ski or snowboard but still want to enjoy the beauty and peace of a snow-enveloped landscape, head over to Satoyama Jujo (里山十帖) in the hot spring resort area of Osawa, Niigata. This is an area that sees some of the heaviest snowfall in Japan. The Nobel-prize winning novelist, Yasunari Kawabata, came here and wrote “Snow Country,” the novel which imprinted the wintry landscape of Niigata on every Japanese student’s mind. And just as Kawabata described it in… Read more »
Japan’s knack for marrying the traditional with the tacky is in full view at Kaneyama-en (鐘山苑), an onsen (hot spring) hotel at the foot of Mr Fuji, near Lake Yamanaka. A massive, concrete hotel of the kind favoured by locals looking to hold a flashy wedding party – there is a church adjacent to the hotel – or out-of-towners who want to bring the whole family along for a special anniversary, complete with karaoke, Kameyama-en is clearly beloved by many,… Read more »
Before the nuclear meltdown that gave Fukushima global notoriety, the area was better known for its towering mountains, lush greenery and abundant hot springs. While many people still avoid the coastal area where that disaster occurred, central Fukushima, where the capital city, which is also called Fukushima, is located and the breathtaking Aizu area to the south are well worth a visit. And if you fancy a trip to Fukushima, Onyado Kawasemi (御宿かわせみ) is not a bad place to find… Read more »