Sunday, August 28, 2011

Conquering Japan, one mountain at a time

Okama, the crater lake on Mt. Zao
Got another mountain under my belt this weekend, albeit a much smaller and less challenging climb than Fuji-san. Yesterday my friends and I climbed Mt. Zao (蔵王山) one of the most active volcanoes in Northern Honshuu. According to its Wiki page, Zao "consists of a cluster of stratovolcanoes" which lie on the border of the Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures. At the top there's a crater lake called "Okama" that changes color according to the weather.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Travel Photos!

I updated my Picasa albums with new photos from my recent adventures. Go here to see all of the albums, or go directly to some of the recent ones by following the links below. Enjoy! :)

Tokyo and Mt. Fuji
Toronagashi Festival in Matsushima
Hiking in Yamagata

Mt. Zao

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Matsushima's Toronagashi Festival

Candles on the ocean under the full moon, at Matsushima's Toronagashi Festival
Last week, right after I returned to Sendai from Tokyo, I went out to the scenic coastal town of Matsushima. I went to see the second Obon festival there; the first one was a Lantern Festival, which you can read more about here. In that post, I talked about how Obon is a Buddhist holiday similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead. The Toronagashi Festival I went to last week is about the second part of Obon, in which you send the spirits of your ancestors back to the other world. This is usually done by floating a candle in a little raft down a river or over the ocean.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Climbing Mt. Fuji

Photo from here.
The main purpose for my recent trip to Tokyo was to knock off one of the things on my Japan bucket list: climbing Mt. Fuji. Fuji is such an iconic part of Japanese culture, just as well-loved within Japan as it is famous outside the country. It was definitely one of the best experiences that I've had in Japan so far.

Mt. Fuji is not the most difficult mountain to climb, and probably any reasonably healthy person can make it to the summit provided they take their time and prepare well. It is still a serious climb though, and shouldn't be taken too lightly- hikers should be prepared for very cold winds at the peak, even during summer, as well as steep, rocky paths and the possibility of altitude sickness.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Natsu Yasumi 2011

My summer break (natsu yasumi) just ended yesterday, and it's back to school today. It was a pretty fantastic two weeks off- I got to spend a lot of time with my friends and really enjoyed my stay in Tokyo last week.

I visited Tokyo with a friend from Sendai, and it was our goal to do some of the touristy stuff there that we hadn't done yet. Also, and most importantly, we wanted to climb Mt. Fuji. This post will be about the first part of that trip: our time in Tokyo. It was incredibly hot and humid there, so we tried to avoid the heat by visiting some of Tokyo's many great museums. Most of them are located in Ueno Park, where you can also see one of Japan's oldest zoos. The park itself is a fun place to hang out, with a lake to walk around and lots of street performers and vendors. 

Ueno Park

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Festivals in Miyagi

Tanabata decorations in Sendai Station
 August is festival season in Japan, and especially here in Tohoku. Last weekend were two of Tohoku's biggest festivals: Tanabata in Sendai and Aomori's Nebuta. I attended Tanabata and also went out to the coastal town of Matsushima for their Obon Lantern Festival.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Favorite Japanese Movies

Time to do another recommendation post, this time covering my favorite Japanese movies. I don't really have a favorite genre of film, but there are some I like better than others. I almost never watch romance, but I do love comedy: so that may be slightly over-represented here, while the former is almost non-existent. Also, I am not a big movie buff, so I'm sure there are plenty of other great movies out there which I haven't seen. If you know of some, feel free to leave me a comment with some recommendations!


Comedy

Kamikaze Girls - This is the story of a lolita who becomes friends with a "yankii" girl from a biker gang. I loved this movie, although the manga it was originally based on is probably not worth your time. It's hilarious, but it's not just a comedy- it's actually a pretty touching story about friendship and growing up. IMDB







Water Boys - Pretty much a silly, feel-good comedy about a group of high school boys who decide to start their own synchronized swimming club. It was a popular film in Japan when it came out, and I think it's a good introduction to mainstream Japanese comedy. IMDB







Tanpopo - In my opinion, this is one of the greatest Japanese films ever made. I've listed it as a comedy, but it's much, much more than that. It's a really beautiful, funny look at life and Japanese culture through food. I really cannot recommend this movie enough. IMDB