Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Izu Life: After JET Conference

This past Tuesday you may have noticed there was no "Top Tuesdays" post. That's because I was attending the After JET Conference in Yokohama Monday ~ Wednesday. The conference was fantastic for preparing JETs for their return to their home country and I learnt a LOT! Stay tuned because over the next few weeks I'm going to share some of the wisdom I acquired for those of you who are interested and/or were unable to attend yourselves.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Travel Log: Bohemian Shimokitazawa and School Marathons

So last week was the school marathon. All the kids gathered at the front of the school and set off running on a 8 km course. This is an annual event at many high schools around Japan. Competition is high so many students will push themselves to their absolute limits, often collapsing at the finish line. That is how seriously this event is taken...

Check out some pictures after the jump!

T.G.I.F: Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival

As I reported last year, once again Kawazu on the Izu Peninsula will be hosting the annual Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend to welcome the arrival of spring and celebrate a spectacular local phenomenon. Every year between February and March, a breed of early blooming cherry blossom called the "Kawazu" can be seen blossoming around town. At night, the blossoms are lit up for a night-time illumination event and a fireworks display begins at 7.30pm. Why not visit Kawazu and see for yourself? Kawazu can be reached from Atami (accessible from Tokyo on the Tokaido Line) on the Ito Line. Click the image below for more information (Japanese)...

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You can click here for more details in English.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tops Tuesdays: Kawazu Cherry Blossoms

It's a drab and dreary day here on the Izu Peninsula. Its been raining non stop for the past 36 hours or so. That in mind, this week marks the beginning of the blooming period for a breed of cherry tree here in Japan that blooms earlier than any other kind of cherry blossom. The cherry blossom season, though varies around the country, normally falls in April but the Kawazu Cherry Blossom begins to bloom a vibrant pink in mid to late February when the weather is still frosty. The blooms have made a community right here on the Izu Peninsula--Kawazu, for which the blossom is named--famous for its Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival (stay tuned this Friday for more on this festival). A beautiful preview of what spring holds for us this year. 

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Happy Tuesday!

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Izu Life: Ten DIYs for Life in Japan

Some of us more than others have arrived in Japan full of optimism but upon opening the front door to our new dwelling felt that optimism drown amidst drab chipped paint, daggy décor, and (worst of all) mould. Living in a clean, comfortable environment is crucial to mental well-being (for obvious reasons). So, aside from paint and elbow-grease, what other quick and easy ways are there to make your living space more colourful and welcoming? I’m here to share 10 nifty DIYs to help your apartment go from tragic to très chic !

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T.G.I.F.: Yokote Kamakura Snow Festival, Akita

This weekend (15th~16th February) is the Kamakura Snow Festival in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture. A kamakura is a small snow igloo which is usually filled with candles to create a soft glow and a romantic winter atmosphere. Over 100 of these kamakuras will be set up in Doro Koen Park in front of Yokote City Hall and its sure to make a memorable experience. From Akita Station, take the JR Ou Line to Yokote Station then jump on the free shuttle bus service. Click the image below for more details...

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Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tops Tuesdays: Valentine's Day

Japan is ready for Valentine's Day! (Follow me on Instagram!)

Better late than never eh?

Today's Tops Tuesdays post is dedicated to everyone's favourite time of the year... St. Valentine's Day.

Here in Japan, Valentine's Day is celebrated with the practise of girls giving small chocolates to their male friends. As opposed to Western customs surrounding Valentine's Day, the giving of chocolate to associates other than one's boyfriend is called "giri-choco" (obligatory chocolate) as most girls feel obliged to extend the act of giving beyond their current love interest. 

The boys' turn comes on White Day in March, when receivers of Valentine's Day chocolates are expected to reciprocate in kind to the girls in their lives. 

Happy Valentine's Day! (Bah, humbug!)

Friday, 8 February 2013

T.G.I.F.: Yuki Matsuri

Hokkaido's famous tourism draw-card is drawing to a close this Monday the 11th of February. The annual Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) is famous in Hokkaido's capital, Sapporo, for its gigantic ice sculptures that stand several storeys tall. Click the image below for more details.

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Are you going to the Snow Festival this weekend? Happy Long Weekend!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Izu Life: Top Five Pinners and Tumblrs about Japan

Continue reading to find out my top 5 favourite pinners and tumblrs on the topic of Japanese fashion, culture and much more...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Tops Tuesdays: Setsubun

Setsubun Eho-maki, Mame-maki and Grilled Sardine 恵方巻き
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Setsubun falls on the day before the first day of spring in Japan. This year, Setsubun occurred on February 3rd. The people of Japan usually eat dried soy beans and try to eat the same number of beans as their age. This makes it difficult for the elderly members of the community to keep up with the Setsubun tradition. Eating soy beans is said to attract health and happiness to the lives of the consumer over the course of the following year. The soy beans also serve another purpose, because as it turns out, local demons called "oni" are terrified of soy beans. Who'd have thought? Children are encouraged to pelt someone dressed in an oni costume with soy beans while shouting, "Demons out! Luck in!" to scare demons away from the house. The idea is to force bad luck out, and encourage good luck into the home. Entrance-ways are sometimes decorated with sardines and holly to prevent evil spirits from entering the dwelling. 

Additionally, it is tradition to eat a makizushi (a giant sushi roll) in silence while facing the year's lucky direction as determined by the zodiac (2013 is the year of the snake) on this day. You may have noticed an abundance of huge uncut makizushi rolls in the sushi section of many Japanese supermarkets last Sunday. Ginger sake is also customarily drunk on Setsubun. 

These days, the people of Japan usually visit a shrine on Setsubun where various sweets and treats are handed out to the visitors. Some shrine's invite celebrities and sumo wrestlers to visit on Setsubun and these events are usually televised nationally. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

T.G.I.F: Lantern Festival, Nara

At the oft photographed Kasuga Taisha shrine in Nara, more than three thousands stone lanterns in the surrounding temple grounds will be lit up for a truly stunning festival. This is definitely going to be one for all the amateur photographers out there so why not set a course for Nara this February the 3rd? For more details, click the image below...

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