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Archive for the ‘Sight-seeing’ Category

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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Kyoto is one of the most interesting cities in the world, even if my new residence out in the middle of nowhere has made me unused to it. Like most historical big cities, Kyoto is a mixture of varying degrees of old and new, but in the most peaceful way possible. My time here seemed to capture the essence of a beautiful lifestyle: burning high-quality incense, trying on lovely kimono, taking in ancient temples, reading literature in the bath, with all the conveniences and technology of a proper city. After weeks of fighting a war against spiders, trucking around in The Tank, wrasslin’ chestnuts, and blogging about every twist and turn in my country lifestyle, a trip to Kyoto made me feel downright civilized.

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In which our heroine returns to Kyoto.

I’m sure that those of you out there who have moved between regions or states (or what have you) of your home country have experienced in-country culture shock. Moving from a Midwestern suburb to a private school out west was a huge culture shock for me, and, yes, I CAN hear you humming “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Four years ago, I lived as a student in Osaka, and I knew that when I got my placement all the way out in the country that it would be very different. I’d be driving a car; there wouldn’t be a nice train line that ran nearly all night; and good luck finding Western food at the grocery.

And yet, I love it here. I love the scenery, the people, and even my creaky old apartment. I want to thrive here. By when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a five-day-weekend, a trip to Kyoto to stay with a grad school friend was too glorious to refuse. Kyoto, where the trains go everywhere! Kyoto, where the dialect is mostly comprehensible!

Kyoto, where I have hardcore culture shock!

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Exactly a week ago, I paid for my car insurance, and the open road was mine. “Driving? IN JAPAN?!” you ask. A-yup. Welcome to Country-Living Lesson 3678: A Car is Necessary.

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