23 October 2007

Seppiko Death Hike!

Climbing Seppiko was one of the things on my “have to do list” for a long time. Well, I finally did it! It would have to be the most difficult hike I have ever done by far – it was even more difficult than climbing Mt Fuji, so that is definitely saying something! At some stages, my legs were so tired that they felt like lead, but I soldiered on till the very end!

Thomas, Steve Harvey, Tina and I all set out at 7:40am to catch the bus on a Sunday morning on the way to Seppiko.

Now that for a start, was pretty impressive for a Sunday morning! When we got there, we were amazed by how tall the mountain actually was. It was HUGE! My adrenalin started kicking in at that stage as my heart pounded in excitement with the mere thought of what I was about to do! This photo shows how high the mountain actually was and we hiked all the way up to the very peak of the mountain that you can see behind us in the photo.

The first twenty minutes of the hike was the most difficult by far. It was so steep and each step was a huge effort. I felt like I was going to die! I was happy to have our first break and have a nice, cold drink of water!

Some of the sections we had to hike through required the use of ropes and chains to pull ourselves up the mountain.

To be honest, it wasn’t really that necessary to use these chains, but they were there for support for the people who needed them. We used them just for the sake of taking a good photo, but that’s just a secret between you and me!

There were also some really small, tight passage-ways that we were required to walk through. This was a tight squeeze, but we all managed to get through it. If I were another few kilos heavier, I’m sure it would have been almost impossible to get through! Thankfully, we all made it!

This was the very first mountain-top we reached. It was such a beautiful view from the top and it was nice to eat a few cakes and sweets after a tough climb to the top. We were all pretty excited that we made it that far!

After a little longer, on our way to the second peak, Thomas was in trouble. He was in need of a toilet which was absolutely non-existent on the mountain, so he had to resort to a squat! Thomas left his little present on the mountain and we continued on with our hike!

This is the second peak that we reached.

We felt pretty tough by that stage and really proud of ourselves. It was easy-street from there – or so we thought! Actually there was nothing about the entire hike that was easy!

After having our delicious bento lunch and a few more snacks, we trekked on to another part of the mountain which consisted of thousands of tall, thin, straight trees. They looked so cool!

As Thomas had already previously climbed Seppiko, he couldn't help but tell us stories that would worry us on the hike. The last time he climbed it, he and all his friends who went on the hike got leeches stuck to their feet. They all had bloody feet and had to take their shoes and socks off and wait for the leeches to fill up before falling off their bodies. After hearing this gruesome story, we all started to get a little worried when we were walking through the damp, swamp-like surroundings. Every two minutes I would check my shoes to make sure that there weren’t any leeches in them! Luckily we were all OK this time! Phew!

This is Tina and I at the waterfall. It was so beautiful to see such greenery and the water looked so clean and clear.

Five hours later, we finally reached the bottom of the mountain. I was relieved to see a seat so that I could rest my legs. We slept for one hour throughout the entire bus ride home!

I loved being in Seppiko and I would love to go back. It was the most challenging and exciting hike I have ever been on. I hope that I can fit in a few more hikes before I have to go back to Australia because I just LOVE hiking! Japan has so many mountains that the list of places to go hiking is endless. Maybe next weekend I will get to go on another one…fingers crossed!

17 October 2007

Oshio Lion Dancing Matsuri

The Oshio Lion Dancing Festival was on at the same time as the Nada Festival. We managed to be able to go to both of them luckily, as they are both quite near each other.

The Oshio Festival is all about the lion dancing. There are many lions dancing all at the same time with elementary school students playing music and setting the beat and the rhythm. It is such a great atmosphere. I really love the way the lions move during their dance. They look so cute and friendly and lively that while I was watching them, I forgot that there were people actually moving them inside. One person is at the front moving the lion’s head, while the other person is bent over at the back, being the lion’s body and two back legs.

While we were studying the lion mask, one of the Japanese men asked if we wanted to be kissed by the lion. Apparently, if you get kissed by a lion, it means you get good luck. So we all took turns in being kissed by the lion while the man was making funny noises in the meantime!

Then, I don’t know how I managed to do this, but I got to be right in the front of one of the lion shows.

I was so close, that I was scared of being hit by the lion’s head! I heard that it really hurts if you get hit by the lion, too! At the end of that performance, I got dragged into this massive group photo of all the performers and all the young students who were playing the music during the performance! Somehow, I felt like I was the token foreigner in the photo! It was fun, though!

I also saw some of my elementary school students because one of the schools I teach at is in the same district.

I was really excited to see them and they were all dressed up in their traditional costumes ready to perform in the festival. They looked so cute and they kept on saying how much they loved singing the “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song the other day! These students were in sixth grade too, so I was pretty impressed that they liked it so much. Then I was testing them on all the body parts I taught them and they could remember all of them! I was so proud of them!

Just before we left the festival, we got to see Miss Himeji Castle.

She was so beautiful and was wearing a really nice outfit with her hair all perfect and make-up done nicely. We were lucky enough to get a photo with her too, so I felt really special!

It was a great weekend spending time at both of the festivals and I can’t wait till I get to go to another one!

Nada Kenka Matsuri

The Nada Kenka Matsuri (Nada Fight Festival) is one I have been looking forward to all year. It is probably the most popular festival in Himeji and there are thousands upon thousands of people who attend. It is so popular because of the excitement value. It is very dangerous, risky, frightening, yet colourful and beautiful all at the same time.

The Nada Festival goes for two days.

On the first day, all the seven districts of Nada (each with their own local colours) carry the shrines for everyone to see and appreciate. These shrines are so heavy that they would weigh about a tonne, so there are around fifty men all helping to carry them. Even still, you can sometimes catch them shaking because it is so heavy.

The second day is when all the action happens! This is the day where they bring out the shrines that are not so delicate and beautiful-looking so that they can bang them together and fight with them. It is the most horrific-looking exercise seeing these shrines being banged together and falling and rolling into the crowd. There is no way that I would want to be stuck in the middle of all of that!

We were lucky enough to get seats from Tina’s teacher at work who has a friend that let us sit in special seats on the second level. We were safe from all the scary stuff that was going on down below, so we could freely take pictures and enjoy the festival from above. This is the man and his wife who let us sit with them during the festival.

They were also nice enough to buy us a bento lunch on the first day. It was delicious, but so filling that I couldn’t eat it all! Just looking at it now makes me hungry again!

At one stage, all the shrines moved to a different location by the mountain and we weren’t able to get seats. This was really unfortunate because we ended up at the bottom (like Gladiator) about to get crushed by all these huge heavy shrines and thousands of people! It was really scary being in there, but kind of exciting at the same time!

On our way to the next section of the festival, we passed some men who were wearing yellow bands around their heads called hachimaki. They were kind enough to give us the hachimaki to wear for the rest of the day, so that we looked like we were all getting in the action of it too!

Another part of the festival which is very unique is the costumes. The men wear a white g-string-type thing on the bottom that is called a mawashi. Many years ago, this was what the men used to wear as their everyday clothes. Now they only wear them during festivals…not that I’m complaining! Some of the men also wore a happi which is like an open vest.

They come in all different bright colours and it looks so colourful when they are all mixed in together wearing their outfits. We managed to get two really good pictures of the costumes for your viewing pleasure!

Festival Season

Everybody in Japan knows that October is the season for festivals. This is the time where everybody prays for a good harvest for the year, which is the reason for most of the festivals being held in October. So that is why the next couple of entries are about festivals – which is one of my most favourite things in Japan. The best thing about the festivals in Japan is that they are all free. You can go and be entertained and enjoy the traditions and cultures without a door charge. It is all free entertainment – and something that we would most certainly never experience in Australia. Yep, you have to come all the way to Japan to see this! I hope I have tempted you now!

Lauren’s Birthday Bash

Just recently, it was Lauren’s birthday, so there is no better way to celebrate a birthday in Japan other than to have a few drinks at home, then go out for the inevitable karaoke. We all had a fantastic time at Lauren’s party. There were lots of drinks to be drunk, lots of singing to be sung and lots of dancing to be performed. Once we hit the karaoke bar, we were all in for a give-it-your-best-shot night!

The best part of my night was the fact that I didn’t even have to ride to the karaoke bar. As we were one bike short, I got the privilege of being dinkied all the way to and from the karaoke bar. Shinya was kind enough to do all the work and ride us both there!

Out of all people, I am most certain that the birthday girl herself, Lauren, had the best time of all! She got right in the partying spirit and sang for most of the night. I’m sure she is still reminiscing about how much fun she had that night!


…MORE karaoke…

…and MORE karaoke!

Tina, Steve, Lauren, me, Shinya and Taro all up for a good, fun night at the karaoke bar.

11 October 2007


Amanohashidate is a place in the country-side of Kyoto which contains one of the three most beautiful views in Japan.

This particular view is so unique because it is a strip of land in the middle of the ocean that looks like it is floating above the water, hence its name. Amano- meaning sky, hashi- meaning bridge and date- meaning floating.

When you look at it upside down (you have to bend over and put your head between your legs) you can actually see that it looks like it is floating above the water.

We went up the chair lifts to get a good view.

The chairlifts were a little scary and unsafe because it was just a small chair connected to a pole which was connected to a wire which pulled you up the mountain. The chair didn't have a chain to strap you in, so if you moved too much in the chair, you could easily fall out. It was very peaceful and relaxing though because everyone was quiet and there was classical music playing as you got pulled up the mountain on this chair.

There was also a really cool bridge that moves when ships go past it. It looked really nice and definately photo worthy!

I took some nice photos of Amanohashidate. The weather was perfect and the sky was blue, so I got some nice photos of the blue sky against the land and the water.

I even rode in the small kiddy ferris wheel because I wanted to get a better view. I was really glad I went on the ferris wheel!

I think Amanohashidate is a beautiful place and definitely worth visiting, considering it has one of the most beautiful views in Japan. It was so peaceful and enjoyable. There were so many people on the day we went because it was such a beautiful day.

Shiga Prefecture – Makino

On the weekend, I went to Makino.

Makino is a town that is beside Lake Biwa (the largest lake in Japan). It is in the country-side and there are many hills and mountains in the town. I stayed in Satoshi’s holiday home and it was so cool! In the morning, we headed out to hike up the Mt Mikuni. The beginning was really steep and difficult, but once we past the hard bit, the rest wasn’t so bad. It was a beautiful day for hiking as there was a little bit of wind so we were able to keep cool.

On our way up the mountain, I was in the lead and all of a sudden, a really scary looking snake slithered past me. It had its head up and it looked like there was a spiky thing on it. It looked really angry that we had disturbed its slumber. Thank goodness it didn’t try to strike us, but instead, it hid in the bushes until we passed. As soon as everyone saw the snake, they all hid behind me! What was I going to do if it came towards me? Later I found out that the snake we saw was an extremely poisonous snake that can kill small children and elderly people. Pretty scary, huh? Thankfully we were ok!

We continued on our journey when we came to a bush that contained little red berries. I wanted to try one, but I wasn’t sure if they would be safe to eat. Yuki assured us all that they were ok to eat, so we all tasted one. They were really delicious!

The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular. I got a good view of Lake Biwa from the top and it was really beautiful. I am really glad I climbed that mountain.

On the way down, we took a different route.

It was so beautiful climbing down the mountain being amongst the greenery of the trees in the forest. I took so many photos because I loved being there. Hiking is so much fun because everywhere you go is different and unusual and beautiful. I love nature!

In Autumn, a plant that commonly grows in the mountains is called susuki.

It is furry up the top and feels nice to touch. There were so many susuki plants in the mountain that we climbed. They looked amazing!

This was my fifth hiking expedition in Japan so far.

My next hiking trip will be in Sepico. Apparently it is a little more challenging as in some parts you have to use a rope and chain to pull yourself up the mountain. It should be fun and I’m really looking forward to it!


Akashi is a small town in the Hyogo Prefecture, but it has a really beautiful castle and a nice garden surrounding the castle.

I walked through the Akashi Castle’s garden and it was really peaceful and relaxing. This was the lake that was near the castle.

There were also some cute turtles that I spotted swimming and talking to each other.

After walking around the castle, I went to the Planetarium where you can learn about the planets, the solar system and the universe.

In one of the rooms, it had pictures of al the star signs and they were so beautiful that I took a photo of my own star sign – virgo. I went inside a large, circular room and was able to see all the star formations in the sky and the sun slowly moving in the sky turning day into night. The chairs were really comfortable as they were reclining chairs and I felt so relaxed that I actually fell asleep! I wasn’t the only one though, there were about five men behind me all snoring their heads off while the school children were cracking up laughing at them!

I also tried Akashiyaki. This is like takoyaki (octopus balls), but it is specific to Akashi. I had a bad experience with takoyaki at the Osaka Castle once, so they didn’t quite taste as good as I thought they would, but I’m sure that I would have enjoyed eating them if I hadn’t had a bad experience in the past!

I’m glad I visited Akashi because it is the sort of town that could get forgotten as it is on the way to Kobe and Osaka by train. It is a beautiful town though and worth a look!

2 October 2007

Kasai Flower Centre

On Mum and Dad’s last day in Himeji, Makoto was nice enough to take the day off work to show them around. I also took the day off to go with them.

He took us to a place called the Kasai Flower Centre. It was similar to the Botanic Gardens, but the flowers that we saw were ones I have never seen before. It was a really cool place, and I wish we could have spent a little longer there because it was so nice.

It was pretty hot that day, so Makoto, Mum, Dad and I decided to sit down and have a rest and eat an icecream before continuing!

These are the best flowers in the entire garden. I love these flowers and I have never seen flowers like this before. They were so beautiful that they didn’t even look real!

This is Makoto and I being silly trying to see what we would look like with long, green hair!

Mum posing in front of the flowers.

Dad posing in front of the greenery.

Mum and Dad really enjoyed their last day in Himeji thanks to Makoto showing them around a beautiful garden. It was good to spend an extra week with them after their trip to Europe because we got to see some amazing photos and some funny stories about their travel experiences overseas. I am positive they enjoyed their time overseas both in Europe and in Japan.