Sunday, 11 May 2014

Hello all,

And a very happy Mother's day to all the mums out there. I hope your children make it a very special day for you.

I'm sharing with you a photo of one of my favourite flowering tees - the dogwood. After the cherry blossoms had finished, the dogwoods of all varieties burst into flower.

Before I get to the things I was intending to write about, I have to tell you of my first earthquake experience. I had previously felt a couple of light tremors which made me wonder if they were earthquakes or just my imagination. But this one was of considerable strength. Is 'strength' the correct terminology or should I say 'intensity'? I don't know. Suffice it to say I was quite frightened, especially since I was asleep when it happened.

It was just after 5.00am when the bed started shaking as though possessed by a poltergeist and the kitchen utensils I have hanging were banging against each other.

Now, I was somewhat prepared for this because my very good friend Kazuko had given me a book on disaster preparation, which included earthquakes. One of the suggestions is to get under a table, so I jumped out of bed, looked at my tiny table and decided that if I got near it, I would be protection for the table not the table for me, so I just stayed put until it stopped. It was only a matter of seconds but it felt a lot longer and I now feel as though I passed some sort of initiation.

And now to more pleasant things. My sister, Vicky and brother-in-law, Peter had arranged their visit here to coincide with Easter and Japan's Golden Week because the holiday meant I had free time from classes to do a bit of sightseeing.

So we organized a trip to Mt Fuji and Hakone for the three of us. As the day was approaching we kept checking the weather reports because we'd been told that Fuji san is all too often cloudy with poor visibility.

Well, luck was on our side that weekend because the weather was perfect - bright and sunny with just some light clouds and just warm enough. The two hour bus ride was pleasant because I was in good company and the scenery out of the window was beautiful. The one down-side was the commentary by the tour guide. She left a lot to be desired.

Mt Fuji in all its majesty!

We arrived at station five, being half way up the mountain and found the temperature considerably lower than Tokyo and quite a lot of snow on the ground. We saw the mountain peak very clearly and bought food from the usual vendors one finds at such touristy locations and then left.

I draw your attention to the branches of these trees. They are all bent towards the right, the reason for which is the strong wind that blows in that direction.

We headed for Hakone, a place I knew nothing about. We were taken up the mountain on the cablecar, we crossed lake Ashi on a boat and were taken to our hotel. All very nice but the things that impressed me the most were the flowering trees all over the mountain sides and the gardens of the hotel. Whereas the cherry blossoms had finished in Tokyo, further north they were in glorious, full bloom and alongside of them were the flowering azaleas. There was a patchwork of colour as far as the eye could see.

Above and below - our hotel's gardens

The following day we set out to explore the town a little and started with the Hakone Open Air museum and ended up spending the entire afternoon there. Words fail me in trying to describe the variety and quality of the art work. I've posted some photos in the Exhibitions part of my blog.

 If you look at the centre of this picture you will see Vicky and me waving.

Hakone is also known for its natural hot springs and baths but one has to be naked to enter. I understand that this is a Japanese cultural thing, unfortunately it is not an Australian one, so we opted out. However, Vicky and I enjoyed a hot springs foot bath at the Open Air museum.

To leave, we boarded the Hakone Tozan Train which runs along the side of the mountain, from which we enjoyed glorious views of the valley below and the mountain opposite full of spring vegetation. I understand that in June there are 10,000 hydrangeas in bloom to be viewed from the train window. Maybe next time. I'm quite serious. If I get the chance I will visit Hakone again. We then boarded the Shinkansen for Tokyo, arriving home tired but elated. 

And, since I'm on this travel log I might as well tell you of our bus tour. I gave Vicky and Peter the choice of what to do one afternoon and they chose and organized a bus tour to Hama-Rikyu Gardens, Sumida River Cruise and Asakusa Kannon Temple. The first thing we learnt was NOT to take bus tours. It took at least an hour to get to where the tour was to begin and at every re boarding of the bus we had to wait for late comers. But the worst thing was that, after wasting all that time, we were rushed through the sites because of scheduling.

Asakusa Kannon Temple (also called Sensoji) is the oldest temple in Tokyo. Its history goes back to 7th century and is dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. To reach this Buddhist temple one walks down a very busy shopping street (Nakamise) full of typical tourist and souvenir shops.

I have a passion for irises and these Siberian Iris have the most vibrant blue colour so I couldn't resist a photo.

I have since revisited Hama-Rikyu Gardens on my own on a bright sunny day and enjoyed it thoroughly, taking my time and just sitting and absorbing as much of the scenery as possible. This exquisite garden was donated by the Imperial Family to the city of Tokyo in 1945 and after restoration work, it opened to the public in 1946.

                   This is a 300 year old Black Pine

This is heaven on earth. I'm going to show this photograph to my wisteria to show it what a wisteria is supposed to look like.

Can you believe the size of the trunk of this wisteria?

Where as we found the other two sites very interesting, the river cruise was a bit ho hum and at the end of the bus tour we opted to make our own way home as it would have been faster than the bus.

This fascinating building belongs to a beer company and it was one of the views enjoyed whilst on the river cruise.

Bye for now,

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