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Showing posts from August, 2013

Okayama, Shimane, and Tottori: Home of the Gods!

I purchased (juseki) non-reserved ticket and I boarded the Yakumo bound for Yasugi Station, Shimane Prefecture.   From my train window Okayama looks like any other rural Japanese town.    Going deeper into the backbone of  Shimane you'll see acres upon acres of rice fields, dated houses with modern insulated tile roofs, quiet, and sleepy.    
I could've flown to this part of Japan, but I would've missed out on so much of the verve and energy of the place.   Shimane and Tottori Prefectures are regarded as spiritual places untouched by time.   The birthplace of the Nation of Japan and the birthplace of Japanese sake, two of the most important reasons for visiting this region, make it one of the most spiritual places in the whole country, the place where all Japanese gods intersect and mingle - 8 million gods.  

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In the second map you can see how my route cuts through from the Pacific coast to the Sea of Japan side.   From Niimi on you'll take in pristine vie…

Adachi Landscape Garden Museum: Summer

No summer in Japan would be complete without visiting the requisite landscape garden.   You have so many places to choose from and so little time to decide which one is best.   There are 827 recognized gardens in Japan.   You could fly as far as Okinawa and bask in the glory of Shikina-en Gardens, a world heritage.    You could follow the throngs of visitors to Kyoto and relish in the beauty of Ryoan-ji Temple, considered by many a masterpiece garden.    I chose Adachi Museum of Art.   Awarded the best landscape garden  in the world  seven consecutive times.    

What better way to enjoy the waning days of summer than to be surrounded by neatly pruned shrubs and Japanese pines.   Bring on the green tea and your frothy matcha latte and come sit in the midst of one man's genius creation - Mr. Adachi Zenko.    Cultural landscape design is a Japanese tradition that has been passed down from one legendary monk to the next for centuries.   The beauty of such landscape gardens is how well …

Omagari Fireworks Competition

There are three big fireworks shows in Japan: Omagari, Ibaraki, and Nagaoka.    No summer in Japan would be complete unless you attend all three of these events.    Akita is far away from most major cities, but even still it drew a crowd of close to a million visitors for this event.   The first picture is a local delicacy found all over Akita.  It's called Kirintanpo a cylindrical shaped rice treat with light miso.   The best way to enjoy this is when it's slightly burnt.  The drinks for the evening came from Dewatsuru of Akita Seishun.   Ginnama ( Ginjo-nama; quite dry;nihonshu-do +3; seimai-buai 57%; ) Fresh, vivid, fruity flavor profiles.      Acid Seven was the next best sake I tried, but one that is only available online, and one I probably had direct involvement in its production...When stopping in Akita Prefecture, you simply must drink the sake.   This sake is extremely rare.   Last spring I had attended a sake event in Akita for a sake naming event.  Everybody criti…

From the Desk of SofJ: My first Gokon-Omiai!

The word gokon comes from the Japanese words 'konpa' -  or get together for group members.  Some references state that compa (as opposed to kompa) comes from the English word, "companion".  Another expression would be "Omiai-Gokon" which is commonly used today.   Omiai is a more formal set up whereas gokon is more playful; groups often go out drinking.  

After six months of procrastinating I attended my first Japanese group dating party.  Normally, I prefer meeting girls on the fly, like when I'm on my way to somewhere.  Doing it that way has a higher fail ratio than if you were to join a get-together.   What to expect when attending an "omiai-gokon" is a group of  30 females to 30 males.  You have to look around for the type of "omiai" party you want to attend.  For example: Japanese women seeking foreigners for marriage.   Japanese women looking for Japanese men for marriage.   There are also age specific groups for singles looking …

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri

26 hours later I finally arrived at Aomori Station by local line from Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama.  That's a little over 475 km.   I was spent and I had no energy left to do anything.  If you've got balls to ride local lines this far with luggage in tow then more power to you.  The Seishin 18 ticket makes it possible to travel on any local line in Japan unlimited five times.    Two  things that kept me motivated were the sweet girls I had met along the way, like when the girl across from me in daisy dukes was doing up her toe nails in candy apple red; she had spread her legs half eagle open wide across the empty seat.  We enjoyed nice conversations together and took pictures of each other.  The other thing was the beautiful view rural hamlets from the window.   It still blows my mind how a person can be born, live, and then die in the same town without seeing anywhere else their country.   You can see the tomb stones in the backyards of homes!  Most Japanese living this far …