In Japan the end of April to about the 5th of May is Golden Week.Golden Week (GW) is basically a week of national holidays, including the Emperor’s Birthday, Showa Day, Green Day, Memorial Day and Children’s Day.
Most people have these days off, so it’s a peak travel time in Japan, with many people either vacationing or going back to their hometowns.
Unfortunately this year, the week was broken up, and so the longest period of time off most people had was 5 days.Some years you can be lucky and get 6 or 7.
Because it’s peak season, it’s really not the best time in Japan to travel.It can be hard to find accommodation and trains, shops, or anywhere really is packed.However it also usually falls on the peak of many spring blooms. This year I made the trip out to Tatebayashi Azealea Festival.Also because it was close to Children’s Day, Tatabayashi holds a festival to commemorate that too, so the trip was well worth it.
After arriving at Tatebayashi Station, on the Tobu Isezaki Line, there were special buses (during festival season only, 300yen) to take you to the park.It is possible to walk to the park in about 30 minutes, but by taking the bus you can start at one end and work your way back to the station through the park and then along a river.
Entrance to the park costs 600yen, and inside there are a variety of stalls selling food, souvenirs, and small azalea plants.The park itself contains over 50 different varieties of azaleas, and even boasts to have a plant estimated over 800 years old.The area has been famous for azaleas since the 15oo’s, and it’s not surprising, because in full bloom the park is a wash of color.It’s also a pleasant place to spend the afternoon under a shady tree watching people or the river.
Heading back towards the station, along the river over 1000 carp streamers are hung around Children’s day.Carp streamers, or Koinobori, are a symbol of being strong and healthy.Many of Tatebayashi’s large streamers are made by school groups of local children, so all are unique in pattern and some are quite artistic.It’s a relaxing stroll along the river for about 1km.
Number 10) Japanese things - Firstly, disclaimer. I am not Otaku. I'm just a geek who likes manga. I actually haven't watched/read anime/manga in a very long time. Over a year I think. But that doesn't stop me from collecting anime figures... They are very cheap and easy to find in Japan. Currently I have about 13 Rurouni Kenshin figures, 3 Oh! My Goddess figures, and a few Ghibli toys. But my figures aren't just anime related, I also have Pirates of the Caribbean, The Labyrinth, Harry Potter, Star Wars.... Figures are very very easy to find and cheap in Japan. Also included in this category is Nihon-poi things. Things that are Japanese in style, form or design. Of course in Japan these things are also very easy to find and cheap. Just ask to see my collection of wrapping clothes So, I suppose the final thing I love about Japan is the product range and availability. The land of retail!
All too often we tend to focus on the negative things in life.I’m a big believer in thinking positive makes you more positive.Recently I’ve been homesick, to the point that I’m counting down my time left in Japan (all two years… probably).So, today I wanted to compile a 10 point list of things I love about Japan, just to improve my thinking.
In no particular order –
1)Flowers – Japan is truly a country of four seasons, and one thing I love about that is spring is beautiful!Plum, Peach and then Cherry.Now Azaleas, Wisteria, and summer will bring Morning Glories and Hydrangeas.And that’s just a few of the blooms!So much variety, all year round. Japan is a flower lover’s dream.
2)My work – or more specifically, the lack of work.Only in Japan could you be paid to teach kids how to greet people with “yo”, and still be paid well.On top of that, the 4 months a year (plus some) that I have as paid vacation.I still don’t quite know how I managed to land this job.
3)My co-workers – Great people.If you don’t get along with your co-workers, then your job isn’t worth it.I don’t spend much time outside of work with these people as they all have families, but when it comes down to the crunch, they are dependable.
4)Eating out – Not only are restaurants in Japan relatively cheap (sometimes it can be cheaper to eat out rather than cook at home) but the variety in foods is brilliant.Within a ten minute walk from my house there is about 3 family restaurants, 1 Italian, 1 French, 2 Japanese, 1 Indian, 2 fast food, 1 hamburger steak….Etc...And I live in the ‘countryside’….
5)Hiking – Within 3 hours by train there are a number of hikes, all various levels of difficulty, and all with something interesting to offer.As long as it’s good weather, then I will never be bored.
6)Museums – Tokyo has many many many museums.I don’t think anyone would ever be able to visit all (probably because there a number of small museums that don’t make it into English publications… but anyway).If the weather is bad, I’ll never be bored.Plus Japanese history and culture are fascinating to me!
7)Aeon Laketown – 5 words – Biggest Shopping Center in Japan!And its only 25 minutes from my place.If I don’t feel like going far, I still won’t get bored.Plus it has various restaurants, and a movie theater.
8)Living alone – this one is something of love/hate.I do love living alone.Only person I have to worry about is myself, I can stick to my own schedule, I can eat what I like, I don’t have to concern myself over other people’s mess.Conversely, it’s a bit lonely, and I have to do everything myself, and deal with my own mess.
9)Travel – There is so much to see in Japan.That’s one reason why I keep coming back. Once again, I don’t think anyone would ever be able to do everything.On the short list for places to visit soon-ish are Totori sand dunes, Hakone, Nikko, Kyushu, Shikoku, Okinawa, Zao, Yakushima, a check point town somewhere between here and Kyoto, ummmmm….I’m sure that list will get longer….
10)And number 10 will have to wait till Thursday, because its home time now, tootles!
Well, the first week back at school has passed without too much fuss.The excitement of the week being flashed by one of the 2nd grade boys - once accidently, the second time on purpose.My new schedule is working out well, and the extra hour is just enough to keep me busy.But to be honest, I have no idea how my coworkers teach in the evenings.By home time I am exhausted, and then I have to cook dinner, clean the house, study, chat to mum…I’ve decided I need a wife.Do they do same sex marriages in Japan?
The cherry blossoms are well and truly gone.It was only two weeks ago that they were in full bloom, and by Easter Sunday all the blooms had fallen from the trees.The analogy of a warrior’s life being “a precious and fleeting gift” like the Sakura is certainly apt.Full bloom lasts for less than a week, and within days the blossoms cover the ground like pink tinged snow.So beautiful, I’m sad its over for this year.
Now its time for Azaleas to start blooming.They are another favourite of mine.In Japan they have a miniature variety which is quite cute, and all the bushes seem to have fuller flower coverage than what they do in Australia.This year I will go to Kyu-Furukawa Teien garden in Tokyo, Tatebayashi (http://www.utyututuji.jp/topic_tsutsuji/topic_tsutsuji.html) and another place whose name escapes me at the moment.
On a final note, my pet fish continues to live, but I think it’s got fungus, because its lips are blackened.Hopefully I can get him medicated up and healthy.Still deciding whether he should be called ‘Fish’ ‘Mullet’ or ‘Dinner’, although I’m leaning strongly towards the later.