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Archive for the ‘Sight-seeing’ Category

So much traveling; so many photo blogs! I went to Nagano for the long weekend and got to see Matsumoto Castle (松本城), a.k.a. Crow Castle (烏城). It’s a stunning castle to visit in the winter.

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On my trip to Tokyo in September, I happened to stumble upon a courtyard full of roses and sparkling lights.

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One of my favorite things about traveling to a new region is finding and sampling the local specialties. I went to Nagoya over the three-day weekend (for 敬老の日) and got to try several of the area’s famous foods.

The trailhead of one of the trails up Kinkazan

Katsu refers to tonkatsu, a pork cutlet fried in breadcrumbs. Normal tonkatsu is served with tonkatsu sauce (とんかつソース), a thick brown sauce similar to okonomi sauce(お好みソース); both of which are a bit like barbeque sauce in savory spirit, if not in flavor. Nagoya’s miso katsu (味噌カツ), is, as the name suggests, tonkatsu served with a miso-based sauce. Although tonkatsu is usually too heavy for my palate, the miso sauce was a delicious spin on the dish. Furthermore, the sauce is made from a miso famous in Aichi prefecture, 八丁味噌 (hacchou miso). This is a type of “red miso” (赤味噌), which has a stronger flavor and “dry” taste than “white miso” (白味噌), which is lighter and sweeter.

I’m not sure which restaurant serves the best miso katsu in Nagoya, but the miso katsu I was served at the restaurant at the summit of Kinkazan (金華山, or “Mt. Kinka”), next to Gifu Castle in Gifu City, was delicious. The set came with a small bowl of rice and a small cabbage “salad” for 1050 yen.

The view from near the summit of Kinkazan

The hike up to the summit is really lovely, and the Gifu Castle Museum had lots of interesting weapons and armor from  Oda Nobunaga and his family’s control of the area in the mid-16th century. We took an easy route up and headed down another fairly easy route—about 1 hour each way. Squirrel Village was entertaining, but you’re basically paying 200 yen to wear a leather glove and feed 1-2 squirrels, so it’s not a must-see place. At the base of Kinkazan is Gifu Park (岐阜公園), Great Buddha of Gifu (岐阜の大仏) (worth seeing), and several museums.

Restaurant Information

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At the end of my long-awaited return to civilization, a.k.a., Kansai, I decided to visit Exciting Shiga, Land of Hikonyan(!). Although I had lived near Osaka while studying abroad, I had never been to nearby Shiga 滋賀県, in part due to lack of knowledge, and in part due to lack of funds. But now that my life as a poor student is over, I want to really explore Japan during the time I’m living here.

Ducks in Biwako

Most expats and tourists to Japan have one thing they really love about “old Japan” and try to get their fill of while here: Japanese theater, temples and shrines, festivals, castles, etc. I’m more of a festival and shrine person, myself, but I’m trying to expand my horizons and learn more about Japanese castles and periods in which they were built and thrived, and Hikone Castle seemed like a good place to start while in the area.

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Last week, I took some vacation time and headed out to Shiramine 白峰 in Ishikawa for the Snow Sculpture Festival 雪だるま祭り.

Shiramine is one of the villages that was incorporated into the city of Hakusan-shi 白山市, and every February, they hold a small, local snow festival on a Friday night.

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Japan has a lot of three-day weekends–nearly one every month, and they’re a great time to travel. Recently, we had our Labor Thanksgiving Weekend, and I really wanted to go on a trip. Unfortunately, where I live is sort of remote. We have some local airports that basically only get service to Tokyo and some super-express trains, but we lack an international airport or the 新幹線 shinkansen, so getting places quickly and cheaply can be difficult. Because of the night buses and the flights to Haneda Airport, Tokyo is probably the easiest place to get to. However, since I was JUST in Tokyo on business, I didn’t really feel like turning around and going right back. Luckily, some of my friends were also not interested in spending their vacation on 12-hour train rides or shelling out for plane tickets, so we decided to do something you can really only do if you live in the country:

Road trip!

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In which our heroine cues the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

Pause for dramatic music.

Pause for dramatic music.

The first weekend in October, I left my hobbit mouse hole for an adventure at Toyama Prefecture’s Tateyama 立山. (more…)

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