Monday, January 09, 2017

Episode 234 - The String That Drew Us Back






These photos were taken at Kenroku-en Garden and the nearby Kanazawa Castle during our summer journey.   For Judith and myself, that was our second visit.  The first one was made some 30 years ago!

Kanazawa has changed a lot since our first visit.  The railway station is now modernized and a number of high rise buildings have been erected around it - it is no longer the traditional city in our memory.  What remain unchanged are the Kenroku-en and the Kanazawa Castle.

The beautiful images of the garden and the castle stayed in our mind for over 30 years.   It seemed that there was some sort of string that kept on pulling us back - Here they are again. What an experience!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Episode 233 - Fairy Tale Wonderland - the Shirakawa-go Area








These photos were taken at Shirakawa-go.

It is a small village situated at the foot of Mount Haku-san in northwestern Gifu Prefecture. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

We started our journey from Takayama City.  It took us about one hour's drive to arrive at the car park of Shirakawa-go.

With the green rice fields scattering in the front, the huge trees in Mount Haku-san form a dramatic backdrop to the antique village houses.

Walking along the paths in this picturesque village, I felt as if I was entering the wonderland in where the totoro was living.  The beauty of the village appeared to be flawless through the lens of the camera.

I compared what I actually saw with what's recorded in the old photos of the village as published on the internet.  I found that the village should have been substantively renovated and refurnished in recent years. Whilst the old hardware was still there, I would say that what I saw amounting to a brand new village.  It is no longer a "real" village which people earned their living from farming - whilst they still raise their crops, the same should no longer be their main income source.  

I am not sure if such renovation work meets with the approval of a naturalist. 

For me, the renovated village looks good.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Episode 232 - Koi Fantasy






These photos were taken at such part of the Setogawa Stream near Enkoji Temple at Hida-Furukawa.

In addition to the antique Japanese structures erected along the banks of the stream, the teams of colourful koi living in the waterway are one of the major tourist attractions of this district - that's why we were there.

It was said that in the early days, the Setogawa Stream was once designed for fields irrigation.  Now it is also used for the purpose of fire extinguisher and for cooling of the pavements of the city during hot seasons.

The waterway which runs through the city, as modified / modernized through out the years, was slightly widened at this particular section (as shown in the photos above), making such section an excellent spot for koi watching.  Teams of colourful koi are set free to swim along the waterway during warm seasons.

I guess that such wonderful idea of keeping the koi in the outdoor, and let them swim freely along the waterway of the city, came from a koi fanatic.

Koi lovers should note that the koi will be kept indoor when the weather becomes too cold.  So they may not be able to see the koi if they visit the city in winter.

Last but not least, the white plaster walls lining along the stream bank, as shown on the right side of the first photo, belong to a three hundred-year-old sake brewery.  


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Episode 231 - Together Is Happiness


Judith and I visited Japan again in this summer.

This time with our friends -  a team of 10 travellers.  We rented two cars and started our journey in Nagoya.  This journey was a little bit unusual as it was the first time we travelled overseas with people other than our family members, and we were entrusted with the task of organizing the trip.

Although I considered myself to be an experienced traveller (self-proclaimed?), I was actually worried at the bottom of my heart once taking up the task.  Could we get everyone happy with our planned sight-seeing points; restaurants; typed of cars; and hotels?

I designed a detailed plan for the purpose of this journey.

Could we meet the needs of all the members?

My expected answer was a "No" and the outcome was again a big "NO" - my plan only carried out elliptically.

Some of the locations we visited were not top sight seeing points as I originally thought; we did not have our lunches and dinners at some prestigious restaurants; due to the time management (my fault entirely), we failed to visit any shopping arcade other than the airport shopping centre; we missed an exit in the highway;  we encountered bad weather in the middle of the journey; we even got stuck at the airport for six hours due to mechanical failure of the return flight.

Was this journey a total failure?

Contrary to what I thought at the beginning, this trip turned out to be a success and all team members, including Judith and me, are still enthusiastic for the time we spent together in those five days. 

We were in fact happy with the unexpected challenges and problems that we met and faced together, and of course the tastes of the ordinary local restaurants and the local produce at the service areas en route.   Facing the uncertainties and enjoying the uncertainties, the friendships among team members were tightened.  This was the beauty of self-help travelling.  The sight seeing points and other initial plannings, if they did count in the success, played a secondary role.  It was the togetherness that counted.

For Judith and me, this journey would continuously bring back beautiful memories to us (and hopefully to all members of the team) in the future.

We of course would like to thank all members for the trust they placed in us for organizing this little journey.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Episode 230 - Harmony of Nature & Man







These photos were taken at the Humble Administrator's Garden in Suzhou.  

Comparing it with the Tenryu-ji Garden of Japan, I observe the following major stylistic differences:  complexity vs. simplicity; realism vs. abstractism;   implicit human input vs. explicit human input;  harmony of nature & man vs. nature according to the perception of man.