Friday’s Footprints – Japan. A Hike from Magome to Tsumago

Japanese Post Town, Tsumago

Hello! Its been a while since I dabbled in Friday’s Footprints, so I thought I would take a break from vegetables and wander back to Japan. Right now my sister Rosemary and niece Emma are holidaying there so I am feeling a bit Japanese-Homesick.

Its been a couple of years now since Jeff and I were last in Japan – for those of you unaware, I have lived in Japan for around three years total (about 4 trips). Since Jeff arrived in Australia and married me, we have been back three times to tour about. I love the people, culture and food very much!

We did this fabulous little hike between two old post towns in the Nagano prefecture, Magome & Tsumago
Post towns were places that travellers in earlier days could rest and eat on their way, possibly as merchants heading to larger cities to sell their wares. These two towns are beautifully preserved in the Edo period style (1603-1867) Power cables and other such modern sights are mostly hidden from view, which gives a visitor a feeling of stepping back in time.

We started in Magome. A quick cup of tea with our lovely friends, Megumi and Yusuke who we had been staying with before setting on our nearly 8km hike down to Tsumago.

Good times with friends
Farewell!

The path was fairly easy and quite varied underfoot. Sometimes it followed the road and sometimes veered off into the forests

Being in Japan in autumn was beautiful and in November there was a lot of fabulousĀ colours to admire

Every now and again the path would take you through a small village. We loved seeing the rural homes and gardens.

Many homes had persimmons strung out to dry
Occasionally we stumbled across a bamboo forest

Every now and again we would find a sign updating us on how far we had to go

Other signs made us giggle

I presume this translates to “The vending machine is out of order”

On occasions we got to meet up with locals as we passed through the villages

Shrines, large and small were also a common sight along the way.

The path continued to twist and wind through the forests, out past rice fields and by farmhouses.

One of the cool things about the homes, was the decorating of their front doors or walls with all sorts of quirky items. Passers by could enjoy seeing what residents had created

Colourful chillies
Fox Face – Solanum mammosum – however with a bit of googling I find that every other country calls it ‘Nipple Fruit’ !! This may be ruined for me now! haha

After a really wonderful hike through the forests we arrived at Tsumago, a beautiful post town, gorgeous streets and shops.

Funnily enough we ran into our friends again who should have gone home several hours before!! Apparently it was their first time to the area and loved it so much they spent the whole day!

Megumi & Yusuke – saying goodbye again!

We found our way to our fabulous little guest house and got sorted out by getting our beds out of the cupboard – haha – yes, futons.
Megumi and Yusuke had very very kindly dropped off our main bags earlier so we didn’t have to carry them on the hike.

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Nurses make beds best so I let Jeff get on with it!
Quaint decorations

Dinner was included with the price and offered a really interesting selection of foods, which were pretty much all delicious! And to be honest, the fried grasshoppers were awesome!!!

Not having walked around enough, I went for a night walk around the town, which had practically closed down with hardly a soul on the streets. It was very restful

It was such an enjoyable part of our trip around Japan – we totally recommend it! šŸ™‚
Hope you enjoyed the tour

Cheers!

Crumpled Autumn

 

 

Friday’s Footprints: Bruny Island Jet Boat Tour

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Where the North and South parts of Bruny Island are tethered together!

Hello!

I am winding the clock back a couple of years to when we went down to Hobart with our lovely Japanese friend, Sanae, who stayed with us a couple of months.

As part of our adventure, we drove over to Bruny Island which is just off the south eastern coast of Tasmania.

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On the ferry to the Island
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Everyone was feeling cheerful today!
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Starting out

The cruise on the jet boats went for three hours, starts at Adventure Bay and takes you down to the wild waters at the southern most tip of the island!

Passengers are provided with very stylish red raincoats.

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Sanae and Jeff looking very waterproof!

Almost immediately, the views became fabulous

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They took us quite close around and through the rocky outcrops to see the stinky seals! That was spectacular for the eye and a shock to the nose. If anyone else has been near a seal colony, they will know exactly what I am talking about!! šŸ˜€

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Chillin…
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Resting
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Squabbling

There were a lot of bird colonies too

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Almost like snow isn’t it??? snicker

 

Things got a bit wild and woolly right down the bottom – and it wasn’t really a rough weather day!!

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Was wonderful watching the crashing ocean!

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Then back past the seals…

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They are great at napping!
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This one is channeling his inner Pip

Then it was time to head back up the rugged coastline

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Beautiful kelp!
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View of another jet boat
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Getting up close to the blowhole!

We floated about for a while waiting for the blowhole to do its thing! šŸ˜€

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We checked out a lot of nooks and crannies… I think this was a cranny –

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Amazing changes in the rock on the cliff faces

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Imposing cliffs!

The best part was where they suddenly zoomed the boat between these two rocks

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They also take you back for a second go, which was terrific! šŸ™‚

We really had an excellent day on this cruise – hope you enjoyed too!

Cheers!

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PS Occasional extras on my facebook page!

Friday’s Footprints: Wings Wildlife Park

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Tasmanian Devil

Not far from us we have a really great privately owned wildlife park called ‘Wings Wildlife Park’ They rescue and rehabilitate native animals – as well as release if possible, or take lifelong care of the animals that cannot be released for whatever reason.

They also hand rear a number of animals so visitors can get up close, learn and even have a pat of some of the babies.

Note for Non-Australians … Tasmanian Devils do not spin. šŸ˜€

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Peeking out of its den
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Enjoying a snooze in the sun

Devils are a carnivorous marsupial – more of a scavenger than a hunter. A powerful bite force lets them crunch through all parts of a carcass

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Hanging off a wallaby leg (road kill)

They really are very feisty at feeding time

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Our Devil population is endangered. The usual interference by humans – Habitat reductions and they had a bounty on their heads until 1941 when they were declared a protected species. Ā One of the biggest threats today is the facial tumor. A cancer that spreads through bites and wounds – and as you can see by their table manners, a disease like this is devastating.

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They actually remind me of the greedy chickens (just with more teeth) the way they grab and snatch food and run off with it, only to be chased and have someone else snatch the goodies back.

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Babies:

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Baby Devil

A female is pregnant for about 21 days and will give birth to about 20-40 babies – all the size of a grain of rice!!!

However – the mother only has four teats, so its a race for survival as the first four devils to latch on win the prize at a go at life.

They stay in the pouch for about 4 months.

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I think they are waaaaay cute!

A baby Devil is called an Imp or Joey. They mature at around 2 years and will live for about 5 – longer if conditions are good.

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All this young devil wanted to do was snuggle!

The staff are the ones that raise orphaned devils – in their own homes alongside the cats, dogs and kids! I had a laugh during one visit as a keeper jumped in the pen before her information session started so she could have a cuddle with a former ward. They have to be released into an enclosure with other similar aged devils once they reach maturity. They can get a little aggressive at that point in their life.

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The sookiest devil I have ever seen!

She had managed to turn our most fearsome icon into a woose! Basically an overgrown house-cat (that can bite through steel) lol (ok, just kidding about the steel bit)

They have awesome expressions and I find them really appealing.

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Also at the park you can get a bag of food or two and go into the kangaroo enclosure and get up close, feed and pat the kangaroos and wallabies.

This is a great place to take our international guests especially

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Just like a cat enjoying a scratch!
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Our friend Sanae enjoying meeting the locals!

Jeff showed us how to relax a kangaroo – step one:

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Step two:

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snicker

We have been lucky at times to get a glimpse of the joeys in their Mum’s pouches

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Funny how they go in head first leaving their feet sticking out!

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There are also a couple of koala’s that you can go in and see and even have a pat of.

The keepers come in and tell you a bit about how they look after the koalas and also bring out a baby wombat – another little chap that has been hand reared.

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Wombats are rather adorable.

And for those non-Australians – our swans are black! (and from experience – slightly cranky!)

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They also have a freaky emu. OK – they are cool birds, but they look so prehistoric they freak me out a little!

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Emu

There are plenty of other birds and animals at this park, but I hope you have enjoyed the highlights!

Cheers!

Friday’s Footprints: Japan – Ise, Part Two

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Hello – back to Japan today to have a little bit more of a look at the Ise area – check out the first installment here if you missed part one!

We stayed three nights in Ise and it was worth it. We could take our time seeing the local sites and even revisited a few areas that we particularly enjoyed.

We stayed at this crazy cool guesthouse/backpackers called “Kazami”

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Five minutes (if that) from the train station and extremely hard to miss!!!

Inside was just as mad –

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Amazing driftwood type decor!
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Steep stairs, artwork on every surface!
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cool basins in the washroom area
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Jeff takes a rest on the tatami floor on our still folded up futons!

The guesthouse was great – friendly people, impromptu music nights and art nights. There was a kitchen we could cook in and a comfy lounge area to relax in. A really good way to meet other travellers too!

On our second day in Ise, we took the little train further down the tracks to find the famous Wedded Rocks or “Meoto Iwa”

It was a nice little walk through a sleepy town to get to the sea

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The rocks themselves were quite impressive, despite the gloomy day

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Wedded Rocks

They representĀ Izanagi and Izanami, the married deities who created Japan andĀ kami,Ā according toĀ Shinto mythology.

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The larger rockĀ isĀ about 30 feet tallĀ and is said to beĀ Izanagi, the male, while the smaller rock, standing around 12 feet, is the female Izanami. The rope that bonds them in matrimony is a shimenawa, a sacred Shinto object often placed over shrines and gates to ward off evil spirits. The rope uniting the Meoto Iwa frays fast due to the wind and waves (as you can imagine), and must be replaced three times per year. Of course, special ceremonies are held each time the rope is replaced.

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It was a nice little walk around the area – lots of frogs!! Frog carvings and statues!

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Always time for a tourist shot! šŸ™‚

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Tourist Jeff

Have a great weekend everyone!

Cheers!

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Friday’s Footprints: Japan – Ise, Part One

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Sacred Shrine at Ise

Ise Jingu is a Shinto shrine complex made up of a large number of shrines, all connected to the main ones, Naiku (Dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu) and Geku (Dedicated to the Goddess of Cereals, Toyouke). They are located in the Mei Prefecture, southern Honshu, Japan.

There is an amazing history connected with this place and it dates back a LONG way.

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Wall surrounding Geku

The main shrines are the most sacred in Japan and you can’t just waltz up and wander through them. You have to be pretty special (Priest or Royal Family kind of special)

You can catch glimpses of them through the gates or the tops of them over the walls.

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One of the many smaller shrines in the surrounding area

What makes this place amazing is that every 20 years, these grand shrines are completely rebuilt and the former one taken down. The first rebuild was in 692!!! In 2013 it was the 62nd rebuild, with the next due in 2033!! That is a dedication like no other!

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Timber for the rebuilds are sourced from the local forests – each part of the process is a ceremony in itself.

The architectural style of the Ise shrine is known as Shinmei-zukuriĀ which is veryĀ simple and ancient –Ā its basic principles date back to the Kofun periodĀ (250-538 C.E.). The shrine buildings use a special variant of this style called Yuitsu-shinmei-zukuriĀ which is not allowed to be used in the construction of any other shrine in Japan.

No nails are used, just joined wood and the skills and knowledge are kept alive generation to generation

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Empty site kept pure ready for a rebuild in 20 years. This site is called Kodenchi
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A shrine nearing its used by date! (There are 123 surrounding smaller shrines so not all get an upgrade at the 20 year mark like Geku and Naiku)
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Shiny and new
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Incredible thatch

The whole area is full of walking tracks between shrines, and down to the river. Although it is a bus trip between Geku and Naiku.

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Inviting forest paths

Many of the paths lead through tori – Japanese people will bow and give a quick prayer upon entering and also turn and do the same as they are leaving. They will also stick to one side or the other of the tori and not walk directly through the middle as that is reserved for the Gods.

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We went in autumn and the colours were stunning

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The use of the hall Imibiyaden is interesting. It contains the sacred fire that all the foods are cooked on that are offered to the Gods at Ise Jingu. The offerings are daily – morning and evening.

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Imibiyaden
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Imibiyaden
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I loved coming across a random twig broom! I wonder what someone was sweeping in the forest ?
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Fabulous trees
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The art of stones
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Plenty of purifying opportunities for visitors around the area

We spent three days in Ise and it was beautiful. Even with the crowds there was a tranquil feeling that we enjoyed as we wandered through the forest paths, over bridges and viewing shrines.

Hope you enjoyed this first look…

Cheers

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Even in the rain this place was stunning

Friday’s Footprints: Japan – Fushimi Inari

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Hello! Today I am escaping soggy Tasmania to show you another bit of Japan.

Fushimi Inari is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto.

It’s pretty much famous for the thousands of tori gates that line the pathways all the way up the mountain.

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Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousand shrines dedicated toĀ Inari – the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, so fox statues can be seen scattered all about the areaĀ too.Ā Some foxes will be holding Ā a bunch of rice stalks in their mouths, and others scrolls – presumably important messages.

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It was a hot bright glaring day when we went- the colour is amazing! Sunglasses would be an advantage!

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It was really good fun to walk up the mountain through the countless tori!

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Since early Japan, Inari has also beenĀ seen as the patron of business. Merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari.Ā All the tori have been donated by individuals or companies… and can cost up to a million yen each! Names and dates of the donor are inscribed on the tori.

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Some of the original structures date back to around 711AD but most are much more recent than that

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After all the orange, a bit of green is a relief!!

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A lot of side paths and shrines to explore

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Meeting the local kitties

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Dark shrine on the side of the lake

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Finally a bit of colour other than orange or green

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Chains of origami cranes

 

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When my niece Emma was shorter than me!!! (sob sob)

As we were heading back down the mountain having fully achieved not getting to the top, but chasing the cats all around because they were cute… I got out my fisheye lens to have some fun with the tunnels of tori

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Jeff wandering off in the distance!
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I love this colour! Its so Japanese !!

 

This is really a must not miss place to see if you are visiting Kyoto. Its a short train trip from Kyoto’s main station and it costs nothing to enter the area and wander around until your hearts content!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Cheers

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Tori and foxes everywhere!

Fridays Footprints: Detention Falls

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Paul in handyman mode. Seriously – its just not weird to visit these people and find yourself on their roof admiring the view!! You just go with the flow!!

Usually when I visit my cousins, the White Family, I can always expect the unexpected… like for example going and hanging out on their rooftop, (see above) or on oneĀ memorable occasion having one of my international guests run over by a wallaby during a bush walk… šŸ™‚

They live in the beautiful Tasmanian bush, off grid in a house they built themselves and I get a lot of great gardening and other advice from them!

They live by a fantastic little waterfall, Detention Falls and it makes a really nice walk from their place, and a very peaceful place to visit

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My cousin Fiona with our guest, Asuka – on a walk into the bush to see the falls

The bush has lots of interesting things if you look close enough

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Worms aren’t normally bright yellow in my experience!!

You are greeted with this sign, that all the locals happily ignore, as the area has been part of their lives for generations.

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See the small print.
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A steep climb down is better on your bottom!

Its a fair climb down to get to the top of the falls!!

 

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Its quite the view over the top!

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Once a secure seat is found – time for a photo!

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Its nice to sit and soak up the quiet

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We continued to walk down to get a different view of the falls

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Rocky landscape among the scrub

We are not even at the bottom, but from here its a good view of the falls – Asuka checks out how far down we could go!

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I love Detention Falls. It just shimmies down the rocks like a lady in a slinky dress!!

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Detention Falls is such an elegant waterfall
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Hills peeking through the dense trees
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Strange little moss art

The walk home is a good opportunity to give Alice, the border collie a good run to wear her out!

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Go Alice!

Its lovely to have little secret places to go to, off the tourist track where you can appreciate a bit of nature that isn’t far from your front door!

Have a lovely day everyone

Cheers

Fridays Footprints: Japan – Gion Matsuri

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Enjoying some food in the Kyoto streets with Mari and Moe

Well, its practically zero degrees right now where I am. Time to think back on warmer times – so lets try summer in Japan!

A few years back when Jeff and I took our niece, Emma to Japan, we were there at the right time to enjoy some of festivities of Japans most famous festival, the Gion Matsuri.

Who doesn’t like to dress up and go out? Especially in another country where you get to try out some traditional clothes and browse all night on local food!

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Waiting for the bus to take us into Kyoto – our good friends Koichi and Mow helped us dress and get prepared

Oh it was hot and muggy! Everyone had fans! Totally essential

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Koichi letting the breeze go up his sleeves!
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Streets closed to traffic for ‘Yoiyama”

The Gion Festival has been a yearly event almost without interruption for nearly 1200 years!!

Periods of hardship were countered by the emperor at the time by demanding prayers be sent to the God of the Yasaka Shrine. This was in 869.

66 decorated halberds (an axe head on a spear) were made and displayed at the Shinsen-en Garden along with portable shrines.

In 970 it became a yearly event.

The floats – especially the Hoko – are huge and impressive. Ā They are stored in the merchants districts when not in use and cared for by the people in each local area.

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The main event on the 17th July. Floats are pulled down the streets of Kyoto

The three nights leading up to the main parade on the 17th July are well worth going to. The streets are blocked off to traffic. Food stalls set up, people everywhere in traditional dress and the floats are lit up so people can get a good close look.

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Girls enjoying the traditional food and looking gorgeous in their Yukatas (Cotton kimono’s)

If you are lucky you might get a glimpse ofĀ a Maiko!

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Beautiful Maiko – very famous in the Gion area
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Moe and Emma checking out the yatai (Stall)

There was a huge crush of people, but if you are patient, they do keep moving along and you just ‘go with the flow’

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Floats even tucked away in the narrow streets!

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Even toffee apples if you so desire!

The festival runs the entire month of July with something happening on each day. As I mentioned above, the main parade is the 17th when untold thousands of people line the streets of Kyoto to watch the floats pulled down the three kilometer route.

Its quite the event to see them do the 90 degree turn around the corners. These behemoths have no steering. There are a bunch of guys with fans standing at the front of the float that co-ordinate the people pulling. Slats of bamboo are laid on the ground under the wheels and buckets of water sloshed over the area. With a series of timed pulls, the great floats are slowly maneuvered around the turns.

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It must be exciting to be up on the floats as part of this event
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They are holding bells which they ring as they chant

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The girls enjoying themselves

It boggles my mind to think this festival has been going for so long. We went into an information/museum area and looked at the records on display, and honestly… you could count on two hands the number of times the festival been missed since 970.

Even when fires destroyed floats, people rebuilt them in time so the festival could go on.

I hope you have enjoyed a little glimpse of this wonderful event. If you are in Japan in July you shouldn’t miss it! Don’t forget your fan and a lot of water! You’ll need it!

Cheers

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Beautiful tapestries and lanterns in the evening sky

Friday’s Footprints: Japan, Nara

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At Nara Park

 

 

Even though there are a lot of places I love in Japan, Nara always feels like home to me. It was the first city I lived near and visited way back when I arrived asĀ a teenager, working as a golf caddy inĀ a mountain area in Kyoto.

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A place to refresh

There have beenĀ other capital cities, prior to Tokyo and Nara was the first permanent capital, established in 710! (The ancient dates I keep running into when reading information about Japan really does my head in!)

Probably the most famous place to go to is Nara Park to see Todaiji and the Great Buddha – Daibutsu.

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Nandai-mon , an enormous gate prior to reaching Todaiji, contains two fierce-looking Niō guardians . These recently restored wooden images, carved in the 13th century by the sculptor Unkei, are the coolest guardians ever
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Imposing Nio Guardian
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Front of enclosure around Todaiji
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Todaiji

This is the largest wooden building in the world. Amazingly, the current structure was rebuilt in 1709 and is only two-thirds the size of the original building, which was founded in 745 and took 15 years to construct!

It houses one of the largest bronze figures in the world, Daibutsu. It was originally cast in 746. Not much of the original remains, as bits have been recast over the years.

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The present statue, recast in the Edo period, stands just over 16m high and consists of 437 tonnes of bronze and 130kg of gold!

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I love the faces on these guardians

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Of course, you have to take a moment to be a tourist

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Octagonal Lantern at the bottom of the steps, is one of the oldest treasures in the temple dating from the founding of Todaiji.

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Incredible relic from the past

Nara Park in general is such a great place to walk through. Beautiful wide paths lined with mossy covered stone lanterns lead the way to shrines tucked away here and there through the sprawling area.

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At the right time of year, this area is a mass of purple with the wisteria in full bloom (All my photos of this are on film!!)

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Kasuga Taisha

Of course, no trip to Nara Park is complete without meeting the deer!

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Beautiful – and greedy – deer

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As you walk the streets, you may just run into some newly weds!

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Stunning traditional clothes.

When you have had enough of the temples and shrines, there are beautiful Japanese gardens to explore

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garden

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Of course, when nature gets too much you can enjoy the delights of the shopping area – lots of fantastic little shops & arcades without the overwhelming frantic-ness of Tokyo or Osaka

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Beautiful Japanese handcrafts
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Sock Shop!! Emma was both delighted and overwhelmed!

One of the memories we have that makes us chuckle, was looking for a restaurant with a Japanese friend of ours, Yusuke, that had our favourite food – Yaki soba & Okonomiyaki. We were in an information shop asking where to go and we were kidnapped by this fabulous little old lady, who proclaimed herself “The Boss of the Area” and dragged us to this excellent little restaurant and then proceeded to instruct the owner to give us aĀ good deal on our meals!!

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Cooking our meal on our table
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Jeff and Yusuke waiting for food action
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Emma and I ready to eat our okonomiyaki (kind of a cross between a pizza and a pancake)(and an omelette!)

Nara is an easy place to miss, as tourists flock to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.

I say make the time. There are lots of really interesting places to see in the area and its well worth the effort. Its a little quieter than the big cities and less over-run with tourists.

Hope you have enjoyed a little look.

Cheers

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I think I need one of these in my garden somewhere

 

 

 

 

 

Friday’s Footprints: Liffey Falls

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At a growth rate of a cm per year, these man ferns have been around a while

Another one of our beautiful places to visit in Tasmania is the World Heritage listed rainforest, Liffey Falls.

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I think they are like umbrellas

Around the parking/picnic area you see leftovers of the logging days

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This tree is still crying…

The walk down to the river under the huge man ferns (or ‘tree ferns’ if you are a ‘mainlander’) is gorgeous

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Not your everyday fern!

The man ferns tower above you and are covered in clinging mosses and lichen

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Soft and pretty mosses

Once you reach the river, you can walk alongside it, taking in views at various points

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There are lots of places you can clamber down onto the rocks and have a paddle
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In the summer this is almost bare rock!! Not so today!

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As you walk down the path, you’ll come across quite a lot of these plate like fungi poking out from the tree trunks

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Its easy to sit for a while, dangle your feet over the edge and soak up the peacefulness and the view

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Mother-Daughter time – My sister Rosemary & Niece Emma

In a different season you would get a soggy bottom if you sat there!

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Perspective
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Lots of little rock pools swirling with water

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When you reach the bottom of the walk you get to see more of the cascading falls… which is sparse in summer

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Small flow in summer

Slightly more impressive in autumn

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During wetter months

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Definitely put this on your list when you visit Tasmania!

Cheers & Happy Friday/Weekend to everyone

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