Okinawa Sunrise

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Hakone is a very popular retreat from the city for Tokyoites. Rat-racers can relax in natural hot-springs or take in views of Mt. Fuji. Sadly, our day in Hakone was nearly as misty as it had been in added to the mystique of the place but Fuji. Just the same, the appeal of Hakone lies in the various means of transportation used to tour the place. From the hotel, we bused down to Moto-Hakone. From there, an imitation pirate ship took us to Togendai. At Togendai, a ropeway (like the thingys you take on ski trips) took us up the mountain, where had nature been kind we would have paused to admire "the Fuj". However nature was pretty brutal when we stopped by the volcanic crater in Owakudani which means "great boiling valley". Rebecca and I evidently have very sensitive aulfactory nerves because the smell of sulpher coming from these natural hot ponds put us off our lunch for the day and eggs for the rest of the trip! Most people however, enjoy buying eggs boiled and blackened by the springs which are said to add 7 years to your life.

From there we took the Tozan railway cable car to our hotel, the Fujiya. Its a grand old place which has hosted many dignitaries...John Lennon too ! It also had an indoor thermal pool and public bath fed by the natural hot springs.

The next day, before communting back to Tokyo, we all checked out the impressive Hakone open air museum which houses modern art sculptures with an amazing natural backdrop. As you can see, in hindsight, that would have been the day to try for a Fuji view! Ah trip!


Far from the heat and humidity of Nara and Kyoto, Nikko is a mountain town complete with misty mountains! It was very lord of the rings/pirates of the caribbean...depending on which sister you choose to listen we walked up the the Toshugo shrine, built as an act of devotion by Tokugawa Iemitsu to his grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu (the Shogun made famous in James Clavells novel). I was extremely glad to have made it out to this small town because the shrine was so different from any other you will see in Japan. It's far from austere, as many shrine are, and impressively colorful. You can only wonder at what it must have been like when the paint was all fresh! Walking about the shrine complex you might think that the buildings must have taken a epoch to build. In fact it took only 2 years since little Iemitsu shipped in upwards of 15,000 craftsmen to lay down the 6+ acres of gold leaf that are found decorating the many carvings and paintings. Thats some serious devotion!


Nara is one of the oldes cities in Japan. In 710, it became the first permanent Japanese capital city (although it only held that honor for about 75 years). About an hour outside of Kyoto, the city is an historical and cultural center that houses many temples, shrines and deer! Yes the deer are not just "free-roaming" as the guides would have you believe. They are free-feeding, free-nipping and free-fighting! Many people make the questionable decision of buying "deer cookies" which, if they do not send the deer into a gluttonous frezy right by the stall, send them chasing after the unfortuante, soft-hearted (headed?) tourist in packs of half a dozen. If you survive the walk up to the Todaji Temple guarded by these doe-eyed beasties, you will be visiting the world's largest wooden structure housing the world's largest bronze Budda. Unsurprisingly, the structure has been destroyed many times in it's history by fire. Fires which also melted the Budda himself on occasion! The building used to be 3 times it's current size before the last fire but I guess there are only so many times you can rebuild before the bill gets out of hand!

We also visited the Kasuga grand shrine. It is surrounded by over 3000 stone lanterns covered in beautiful moss leading up to several spots for prayers including a shrine for academic success....Rebecca paid her respects :) I was not allowed to photography that however....lest I compromise the solemnity of the moment!

We were also fortunate to meet up in Nara with friends of mine from Okinawa. Kyle and Tali were on their way out of Japan for good and they and daughter Aubrie were a lovely addition to our tour. Especially watching Aubrie with the Deer!

Return to mainland and blogging!

Greetings all! After a long lag I am now updating the blog again! In truth, not a heck of a lot has been going on since my last post in March. With Adrian away, I have been concentrating on learning the ropes in my new position as the Assistant Pacific Director for the University of Oklahoma's advanced programs and focusing on my Japanese studies and physical fitness!
However! Happily my mum and lovely sisters made the trip out to Japan in the first two weeks of July and we toured the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto in addition to the outlying areas of Nara, Nikko and Hakone. Since I have posted many city pics on the blog already, please enjoy these images of these lesser known cities!