Riding the Yufuin No Mori

For Scott’s birthday we took the day off and traveled to a nearby hotspring town, Yufuin, in Oita Prefecture. While Yufuin was lovely, full of quaint shops, natural hot springs baths, and delicious food, the highlight of the day for us was taking the train.

Yufuin no Mori, meaning Yufuin’s forest, is a luxury train that travels from Fukuoka to Yufuin and back 4 times a day. At the time we had no idea it was a special train, but knew that it took about half the time as the local, and cost only $10 more.

It quickly became apparent that this was no ordinary limited express. The interior of the train was covered in wood, and the area in between the carriages were large open spaces, and the seats were wide and comfy. After departing, an attendant came around with props to take pictures of tourists, on their own camera. Whenever we passed a scenic area, announcements were made in English and Japanese and the train slowed down as we passed.

This week is Tanabata – or festivals of the stars. Legend has it that there are two star lovers who are separated by the milky way and can only meet once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month. People all over Japan make wishes for clear weather so the stars can meet, and also wishes for themselves. They write these down and hang them on trees. The train ladies were happy to explain this tradition and help us to fill out our own wish and hang it at the station.

Because it was Scott’s birthday, they gave him a free drink and a little card, and on the way back, the girls counted 27 candies into a cup and presented it to us as we left the train.

Being extremely visible minorities here, along with Japan’s tradition of amazing customer service, has meant that we received special treatment a lot. It’s a strange feeling, to be so easily picked out as different.  A little unnerving, but people have been nothing but extraordinarily kind to us here, and I am going to miss interacting with Japanese people a lot.

 

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Elegance

This couple at Nagasaki’s Sofukuji temple was so fashionable. I love her green skirt!

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Some Saga Fun

Maureen and I recently went to Saga to explore the town and cross it off our list of places to visit before leaving Japan. It was a lovely evening, and we had a nice tour of the castle and the many statues along the moat, with some delicious Indian food to finish it off. My favourite part was coming across these pipes at a children’s playground, where we reanacted some scenes from Mario.

Ok, so we both forgot how Mario looks when he comes out of the tunnel, but it was fun anyway!

 

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Japan’s Weird Food: Basashi

Every culture usually has one food that we would not consider eating in Canada, and in this part of Japan, it’s horse.
Raw horse to be precise.

Basashi, as they call it, is raw or slightly grilled horse and is a specialty of the prefecture beneath Fukuoka, Kumamoto. I’ve seen it served at fancy restaurants, not so fancy restaurants and even people’s houses, and it weirds me out a little every time.  What weirded me out even more though, was how much I liked it.

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A Weekend in Miyazaki Prefecture

It’s a busy week here at school and at home. I got back from a whirlwind weekend in Miyazaki and am heading to Shikoku on Thursday.  Miyazaki was amazing. Here are the highlights!

Udo Shrine – a beautiful shrine built into a cliff. The shrine is dedicated to fertility and has rabbits everywhere. There is a rock a little out to sea with a dimple in the top. The shrine sells clay balls for you to throw into the dip, and if you get it in, you’ll have good luck!

Fake Easter Island. Sometimes its better not to question why.

Pizza Hut – After nine months of Japanese Pizza, all of us were looking forward to the Hut. It was a decision I later came to regret – too much Cheese! We couldn’t find the actually restaurant, but the GPS brought us to a delivery center, so we ordered some to the parking lot.

Takachiho Gorge – an unbelievably beautiful place. We went boating and on a hike that turned out too be much l0nger than we expected. Ugh.

Chicken Nanban – the famous dish from Miyazaki prefecture. Chicken with a vinegar sauce. Delicious!

I am so glad I got the chance to camp in Japan, even if it was on the most beautifully manicured lawn. Miyazaki was wonderful, and given the chance I would go back!

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Mojiko

Mojiko, the last railway stop on Kyushu, used to be a major international trading port. As a result it is full of beautiful old neo-renaissance buildings, such as this railway station, built in 1914.

 

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