From Fukui, with Love

Date day on the Echizen coast

Posted by in Mike's blog

We found ourselves in a fortunate situation:  Mary is on spring vacation and most of my students are on holiday…so we have a few days to ourselves while the Bunny has fun playing at hoikuen.  We’ve been married for 6 years, our kid is 3, and all of our family is overseas.  This time is precious and invaluable, so we are making the most of it! For our first “date day” we decided to take a drive to the Echizen coast (for the first time!).  The stretch of road we…read more

Reasons why people make a big deal about going to Kyoto

Posted by in Mike's blog

When we talk about Japan to people who know a little bit about Japan, they know three cities:  Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.  Kyoto is the one with all of the cultural heritage sites.  There are over 2000 (yes, really) temples and shrines dispersed throughout the city.  It gets swarmed with both foreign and Japanese tourists at every point in the year.  Guidebooks tend to focus heavily on Kyoto visits because there’s so much to see packed into a city that really isn’t that big (at least compared with the other…read more

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Camping for free at Kadohara orchards in Ono

Posted by in Mike's blog

It was a Saturday morning.  The house was clean, the errands that mattered (that we remembered) were done, and it was a gorgeous sunny day outside.  What were we to do!? Somehow, Ono was the answer. We had read about a free campsite east of Ono city (a place we had never been) called “the watering hole”.  Obviously this wasn’t the campsite’s real name, so any research we were able to conduct before leaving was limited to the experiences of people who used this name.  We have since discovered that…read more

The road less travelled to Tsubame Onsen

Posted by in Mike's blog

We went to great lengths to experience some traditional ancient Japanese culture during our recent vacation. As I mentioned in my previous post about our trip to Nagano, I found information small secluded onsen (read: What is an “onsen?”) in the mountains close enough to the cottage to make a visit worth our while.  It’s just past a little one-road village called Tsubame Onsen in Niigata prefecture. Natural hot springs are common in Japan, and they exist in many forms.  In cities, there are little onsens all over the place….read more

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Nagano: Mountains, cottages, hot springs, a nice lake and NINJAS

Posted by in Mike's blog

We just got back from a 6 day vacation in the mountains of Nagano prefecture. A few weeks ago I was having a discussion about my family’s summer plans with a friendly group of old ladies.  We had been trying to put together a plan for a short trip, but it wasn’t coming together.  One of them casually mentioned that she has a vacation home/cottage in Nagano, it has been largely unused this year, and she wanted us to take our vacation at her cottage so that someone could open…read more

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All the cool kids swim at Mizushima beach

Posted by in Mike's blog

What does your perfect beach look like? Island location?  No man-made structures?  Soft sand?  Calm, crystal-clear water?  Natural shade?  Litter-free?  Secluded?  We aren’t picky beach-goers, at least we may not have been until we spent the day at Mizushima, which happens to have all of the things I described above (except for the secluded part…this IS Japan after all). Most of the beaches we have spent time at around were conquered by capitalists long ago.  In Ostia (near Rome) we saw every possible square metre of beachfront property was owned…read more

No helicopter parenting allowed at Fukui’s Undo Koen park

Posted by in Mike's blog

I have long maintained that Fukui is a great place for kids. We get to enjoy numerous community play centres, generous prefectural & municipal policies that make parenting cheaper, indoor playgrounds and kids’ rest areas at most major stores and malls…and smart city planning for public parks. In Japanese cities, front and/or back yards are pretty rare.  Some people who own a lot of land do have them, but most families don’t.  So where do kids play?  In Fukui, there are many, many small parks scattered throughout residential areas.  We…read more

An attempt to describe Fukui snow

Posted by in Mike's blog

Looking back, I realize that I never posted about the snow we got here last winter.  I did write one about clearing the snow away, but not about the snow itself. Oops.  Now that it’s June, I have reminisced about what I was thinking last summer while we were preparing for our big move to Japan.  One of our burning questions had been “what is the snow REALLY like?” We tried our hand at internet research and we learned a few things.  First we learned that people who write about…read more

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It’s cherry blossom time!

Posted by in Mike's blog

Once a year for about a week, Japan stops. That week happens at varying times depending on the climate and the weather.  In Fukui, this has been the week when cherry blossoms have gone from buds to full bloom to slowly falling onto the ground.  The thing to do this week has been to go “cherry blossom viewing”.  That’s right, people from all over go to parks to look at trees. How could we pass this up!? We went to Fukui’s famous Asuwa river where hundreds of cherry blossoms form…read more

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Bunny island is the best place in Japan

Posted by in Mike's blog

Imagine a place where in the absence of humans, bunnies have repopulated… There is an island called Okunoshima (also called Ohkunoshima, Ohkuno island, or 大久の島) in the Seto inland sea off the coast of Hiroshima prefecture where this has taken place. There are humans on the island, but they are all visitors (as far as we know). The island belongs to the bunnies, and we were fortunate enough to have spent a day there last week. We had been planning to go to bunny island for the past few months,…read more