From Fukui, with Love

Ono in the fall

Posted by in Mike's blog

We took a short trip to Ono city in Fukui prefecture’s eastern mountains.  My mom (Bubbe) wanted to see a real Japanese castle, and Ono is supposed to be very nice at this time of year. Ono city is on a flat piece of land surrounded by mountains, with one lonely mountain in the middle.  People who have long since passed decided to build a castle on that lonely mountain.  It was a good strategy at the time, but that didn’t prevent the castle from being burnt down a few…read more

How to see foliage the Japanese way

Posted by in Mike's blog

We just returned from another weekend in Nagano at the lovely cottage that we visit occasionally.  This time we had a mission:  To find and take pictures of awesome fall colours in the mountains.  Our friends and neighbours call it “autumn leaf viewing”. Prior to this past weekend I used to look outside, decide the trees looked nice, then drive through wooded areas.  That was my version of autumn leaf viewing.  This time we did things differently.  I discovered foliage spot finder to help us with our quest: Using this website, I…read more

Kanazawa gets no respect

Posted by in Mike's blog

Name 3 cities in Japan.  I bet one of them was Tokyo. There was a time when Kanazawa had a chance at being one of the first three cities that might have come to mind.  That time was a few centuries ago.  These days Kanazawa gets no respect.  We went there a few weeks ago to see what all the lack of fuss was about. Short introduction Kanazawa is a city.  It’s not a big city…only around 460 000 people.  It happens to be the biggest city in Hokuriku (Hokuriku…read more

Budget travelling in Japan the Mike & Mary way

Posted by in Mike's blog

Vacationing in Japan can get crazy expensive, but it doesn’t have to.  If we aren’t careful, we can drop tens of thousands of yen in a day while we are away from home.  It helps to pretend that the values of all the things we buy have less zeroes at the end…but when we do that we’re only fooling ourselves. Now that we have been to more prefectures than we can count on our hands I feel like we have learned enough about how to have a good time while…read more

Stories from the tsunami area at Kesennuma

Posted by in Mike's blog

This is part 2 of a 2-part post (should have been 3) about my recent visit to the tsunami area in Kesennuma, Miyagi. For some much-needed context, you should read part 1: The tsunami area at Kesennuma: Then and now.  If you just want more pictures, here’s Tsunami area: 2 years later.   On March 11, 2001, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook the ground deep beneath the surface of the Pacific ocean less than 100km away from the city of Kesennuma. 10 minutes later, the tsunami came. While I was…read more

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The tsunami area at Kesennuma: Then and now

Posted by in Mike's blog

Few outside Japan know the names of the cities that were devastated during The Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.  Here’s a name: Kesennuma.  I recently joined a team from Bunkyo Gospel Centre on a short trip across the country to go there and help. Kesennuma THEN I didn’t know it when I agreed to go, but I had seen Kesennuma before. This tsunami was the first disaster of its kind to take place where (almost) everyone had a high quality video camera ready to film. The world got a chance…read more

No more planes!

Posted by in Mike's blog

This morning I woke up at 4:00am.  I was excited to have slept so late, but only because I read the clock wrong in the midst of my drowsiness and I thought it was 5:00am.  I realized my mistake after I had finished my morning cleanliness routine…but by then it was too late.  The Bunny was wide awake because she thought it was morning… 5:00am is a respectable time to wake up at with jet lag, 4:00am is not.  We just finished the 2nd longest journey of our lives –…read more

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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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Confirmed: Miyajima is as nice as it looks

Posted by in Mike's blog

I was reminiscing over some pictures of our travels from our first year in Japan when I realized that I never posted anything about Miyajima.  OOPS! Normally a day spent on one of Japan’s most famous picturesque islands would be something to write home (blog?) about, but our time in Miyajima was overshadowed by the rest of our spring vacation trip – the one where we went to bunny island.  Not only had I written nothing about it, but I hadn’t even posted any pictures!  At the time, I was…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