All posts tagged: Japan

Sydney Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry blossoms blooming, sumo’s wrestling, origami hanging, Cosplay peeps discoing – wait, where are we?! A couple of weeks ago, for a couple of weeks, the Auburn Botanic Gardens in Sydney’s western suburbs became the site of much hanami, which translates as the Japanese art of “flower viewing”. Crowds of people (and some hungry bees!) descended on the Japanese garden, which wraps around a lovely geese-filled lake, and is a mere corner of the nine hectares of the whole Auburn sanctuary. I’m not sure the resident peacocks knew what hit them, but it was definitely camera flashes. Instagram?! What the ef is Instagram?! They weren’t sure, but plumed their impressive emperor attire just in case. Or they wanted a fight. Who knows. Anywho… Crowds aside, for the Japanophile (which is probs all of us, yeah?!), it was worth all the potential danger you faced being hit by phone-wielding arms. Bursts of the delicate pink blooms lined the walking paths, and periodically you would find yourself alongside a lady dressed in their finest yukata (summer kimono), …

Return to Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

Shimokitazawa is Tokyo’s coolest neighbourhood, so it goes without saying that when I returned to Japan, that is where I would be based. You can eat vegetarian here, you can drink Kirin at hole-in-the-wall bars, shop vintage or at Muji, play arcades well into the night, or get lost in alleys and find your way back with ease. And it’s around 4 minutes on the train into Shibuya. We opted for an Airbnb place near the station’s South Exit – it was actually just around the corner from the Darwin Room, which I mentioned in my last Shimokita post. This was a less-explored part of Shimokitazawa for me, and held a different vibe from my last visit – but one I really loved. We actually had everything we needed – great food, a cool-as-hell locals bar (more on that below), close access to the station, and ARCADES! We got totally addicted to the drumming machines, where you have to whack the drum to the beat of the song on a screen filled with cute cartoon …

Travel Kit: JAPAN

Welcome to Kit. It’s where we’ll be showcasing what we bought on our adventures, what handy and lust-worthy items might make your trip infinitely more enjoyable, or just travel-inspired products that spur on wanderlust. Just the thought of shopping in Japan makes me feel giddy. Department stores, stationary emporiums, shops full of kawaii gifts, manga-filled bookstores, tea house gift shops. Bring it! And if you’re anything like me, you also like daydreaming about what you might purchase even prior to setting foot in the country. If you can relate, this post is for you. It’s a sample of some of the treasures that I purchased on my trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. A little what and where. Alcali top from Soffitto in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo Alcali crossover pants from Soffitto in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo Calico bag from Hotel Claska in Meguro, Tokyo Matcha tea set from Iyemon Salon in Kyoto Shibori fan from Arashiyama, Kyoto Birkenstocks from Markcity, Shibuya, Tokyo Camping mug from Kamikochi, Northern Japanese Alps Stone sunglasses from Piledriver winter sport shop …

Sundown in Kyoto

Even weeks after leaving Kyoto, it’s hard to believe that this place even exists. It is the ancient, cultural heart of this Land of the Rising Sun, and to paraphrase a Japanese gentleman I met in Tokyo, who was speaking about the Japanese bombings of World War II, “if they had have bombed central Kyoto, there would have been no coming back from that”. And after taking a wander through the age-old streets of Gion, it’s hard not to agree. To arrive in this city and embark on a sunset stroll along the Kamo-gawa (which translates as Wild Duck River), and over the Shijo-Ohashi (Shijo Bridge), where Japanese women dressed in summer kimonos called yakata are pausing along the railing to have their photos taken in front of the distant misty mountains, you feel that you have stepped, if not into the Middle Ages when Kyoto was established, certainly into another time and place. After continuing at dusk over the bridge into Shijo-dori, the main tourist street in town, I slowed to peer at art …

Tokyo Neighbourhood

Tokyo Cool: Shimokitazawa

Shimokitazawa is to Tokyo what Williamsburg is to New York or perhaps what Newtown or Redfern is to Sydney. It smacks of urban modern cool, but remains a little grubby around the edges. It’s an intersection of long-standing businesses, hipster cafes, hole-in-the-wall (as Japan does best) eateries and laneways full of vintage and new fashion. It has energy. SHOP: Marble SUD  – if you love hiking and bears and pine trees in national parks and other wild places (which, clearly I do hello wild spin) then visit this cute (kawaii in Japanese) store which has all of these things and more printed onto dresses and bags and caps and hankies and other objects you can keep close to your body. It’s Japan does Alaska – what’s not to like about that?! I’m super grateful to Ebony of the amazing Hello Sandwich blog for giving me some pointers of where to eat and drink in Shimokita, like an afternoon drink at the lovely family-run Mois Cafe which is in an old Showa era house! (When you’ve …

Buddhas in Bibs: Koyasan, Japan (Part Two)

Any visitor to Koyasan knows that this is one of the most sacred Buddhist areas in Japan. You know it when you see monks on the streets, when you take your shoes off to enter a temple, when you see Buddha statues with offerings placed carefully alongside them, situated anywhere and everywhere, like next to the bus stop or hidden in the gardens out the front of traditional inns. But, despite being told, it’s hard to comprehend just how sacred, for how long, and to how many people. That is, until you visit Okunoin.   Worshipers of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism first settled in Mt. Koya in 816 under the guidance of Kobo Daishi, as mentioned in my previous post. Okunoin cemetery is where he was laid to rest, and followers believe that he is not dead, but rather is in eternal meditation in his tomb, awaiting for the arrival of Miroku Buddha (the future Buddha), as he is the only one who can interpret his message for mankind. The mausoleum surrounding his …

Monks in Mountains: Koyasan, Japan

As you wind on the train from Osaka up towards Koyasan, a mountainous Buddhist sanctuary for around 1,200 years, the stations get smaller, the tracks begin to meander and the Japanese umbrella pines become more dense. There are lush green views opening between the track-side trees, allowing you to peer down on little villages with sloped brick roofs. By the time you reach the funicular railway towards the end of your journey, it’s easy to comprehend why this area is considered sacred. It draws you further up into the peaks… This was to be my first stay in a Ryokan – a traditional Japanese travellers inn. Through the wooden lantern-flanked gate I walked, past the manicured garden of auburn and green and the broom-swirled pebbles, under the curved roof, shoes off, slippers on…   STAY: Koyasan Fukuchiin is an inn, a temple (or shukubo – meaning temple lodgings in Japanese), an onsen (Japanese bathhouse) and more. Traditional Japanese rooms feature tatami mats, low dining tables and sliding shoji doors. It’s customary to wear the provided …