Sports day

Sports day is an annual event at Japanese schools, and students are split into teams and compete against each other in a variety of events.

Today is the first practice I have witnessed, and it consisted of dancing, marching, panel working, singing and formation walking. What a day!


Here is a short video of the entrance ceremony which gives you a view of the courtyard and some marching. Sorry for the shakiness and the part at the end where I cut off after a bug falls on me.

Japanese children practice this kind of marching every year for sports days and other ceremonies, and apparently the Japanese Olympic team has received criticism for their ‘military’ style marching in the opening ceremonies. So much so that the team is apparently reminded every year to walk ‘more casually’.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

This palace is in downtown Seoul, and apparently the most important historical tourism location in the city. We stopped for photos and accidently skipped it as we continued our quest for ice cream.

I loved the roofing though!

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Sometimes kids here are too cute for words.

Girl gazes at Anpanman bus

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Japanese bucket list

Two months ago, I sat down with my friend Maureen, and started dreaming up a list  of things we wanted to see before we left Japan. There are so many things we wanted to see and experience, we didn’t want to forget any!

Now that we only have two months left, I have been checking my list more and more often to make sure I get it all done!

Things I plan to do this month include: Firefly Festival, planting rice, going to a famous ramen restaurant and an onsen town, and seeing a gigantic buddha statue.

Things I may never be able to cross off – going to Tokyo, Nara, Osaka. I am running out of time and money to see these places, so they will probably be left for a return visit to Japan.

Japan Mind Map

Sure, it’s a little obsessive and anal.
Sure, making lists may take you out of the moment and may make you forget why you wanted to do those things in the first place.

But if feels so good to tick them off!

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Shikoku’s beautiful flowers

One thing I will say about Japan’s erratic and frustrating climate is that beautiful flowers bloom all year long. It’s almost worth the physical discomfort and excessive rain. I didn’t know I had found so many wonderful flowers in Shikoku until I got back and looked at my photos. Apparently I am obsessed.

I tried to name the flowers, but I actually have no idea, so if you know what they are called, let me know!

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Hanging Monasteries of Datong

Our harrowing train experience brought us to Datong, a city known for two magnificent tourist attractions, the Yungang Caves and the Hanging Monasteries.

Short on time, we arranged a tour with CITS. They met us at the station, helped us find a sketchy hotel, booked the tour for us, and told us that Bin Laden had been killed. Surreal.

The day trip to both sites cost 100Yuan (about $15) without admission fees, which were about $15 each.

The monastery was originally built in 419, and rebuilt during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Support beams were inserted into the rock, and the poles you can see are only a backup. On busy days they absorb some of the weight, but when we went you could move the beams with a light push.

I couldn’t believe how big the monastery was. There were over 40 rooms, some filled with Buddhist statues, some with intricate carvings. My favourite details were these tile figures on the roof. These number of these decorations represented how important a particular building was, with some buildings at the forbidden city having 12 statues.

This site alone was worth the trip to Datong, although I would not recommend pushing on the poles if, like me, you have a slight fear of heights.


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