My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Four Seasons of Japan.

   People often ask me "When is a good time of year to visit Japan"? My answer is always " Any time of year is a good time to visit Japan, but some times are better than others". The " ....some times...." I am referring to are Spring and Autumn. I will explain why later but, in the mean time, check-out Kigo - Japanese Seasons.
   Different people have different reasons why they visit a country at a certain time of year. The cold months of Winter (7th November - 3rd February) may not suit most but, if you're into Skiing and Snowboarding, then Nagano and Hokkaido Prefectures will be where your little piece of Paradise will be found. If it's the weather extremes you're trying to avoid, then the same could be said of Summer (6th May - 7th August). The Summer months here add new meaning to the terms, hot & humid. And that just leaves Spring (4th February - 5th May) and Autumn (8th August - 6th November). 
   I will now take you through the seasons and, what better way to begin, than with Spring, or what is known as Haru in Japan. This is my favourite time of year. Why? To me Spring represents life. After months of dormancy, plants, along with many other lifeforms, come to life. And the best way for me to express this, is to share with you photos of the Sakura
Himeji Castle.
Gassho-zukuri Minka
                                                Himeji Castle  is in itself a sight to behold, and that is regardless of what time of year you visit. But, when the park surrounding the Castle is in full bloom, the Castle takes-on an even bigger magnificence. On a bus-tour through Gifu Prefecture, back in 2006, we called-into an isolated village (so isolated I can't find the name). It was here that I managed to photo this Gassho-zukuri Minka with a Sakura in full bloom.
Sakura and Torii.
Celebrating Hanami.
   My pride and joy, when it comes to Sakura photos, is this one in the Uji area of Kyoto Prefecture. I was on a hike through the area for my "Everytrail page", when I stumbled-upon this sight. The Sakura were vivid white.
   Before we move-on to Summer, there is one event I want to tell you about that is celebrated here in Japan during Spring - "Hanami". This is where, for a few brief days, millions-of-people throughout Japan will set-up their picnic gear under the Sakura trees, and celebrate the occasion with copious amounts of food and alcohol. The first time I celebrated Hanami I was quite overwhelmed by what took place and it is something I look forward to each year.                                                                                                                                                                                   Now time to tell you about Summer, or Natsu in Japan. Or maybe I should warn you about Summer. There are two ways to describe Summer in Japan - very-hot and extremely-hot. Back home in Aotearoa, if it reached the temperatures it does here, we would all be as Red-as-Beetroots. The overnight temperatures rarely dip-below 25c. Then, during the day, it can top 40c. Outdoor activities require copious amounts of water and short excursions.
Your's Truly
Refreshment Stop.
But, I came up with a way-around cycling on those hot Summer days - get up at 2am and go for a ride.
In the photo on the left, I have arrived at a Japanese Tea-House nestled amongst the hills surrounding Nara City. The establishment has been here for over 180-years. It is 8am, I have consumed 3-liters of water and the temperature would already be 30c+. Further on, on the same trip, I found the heat quite unbearable and I had to take-a-break at this old bridge. By then it was about 10am and getting hotter.
Cooling Down.
As luck would have it, I discovered this water spring that I was able to cool-down under. I was still a long way from home, and it wasn't getting any cooler, but the chance to refill my bottles with clean-fresh water added some relief to my overheating. Heat-exhaustion claims many lives throughout Japan each year, and I am wary of being one of those statistics.
Hanabi Festival.

"Hanabi" or "Fireworks Festival"  is one of the major festivals celebrated in Japan during the Summer. Throughout the country thousands-upon-thousands gather at a venue and, for the best part of an hour, be entertained by the awesome display of fireworks. In Otsu City,  Shiga Prefecture, some 10,000 fireworks will be set-off.                                    
Autumn Colors.
The photo on the left introduces us to Autumn, or Aki to the Japanese and, what better way to introduce this season, than with photos from Komyo-ji Temple in Kyoto prefecture. I came-across this complex quite by accident when I was homeward-bound from a ride in the hills surrounding this area.
   The colors of Autumn continually astound me, and that is after 7-years of living here. This is so picturesque and even the one tree, regardless of the color of the leaves, is still a sight to behold. So, in saying that, can you imagine what a whole hill looks like in Autumn colors? 
Suzumushi-dera Temple.
Sugoi! Suzumushi-dera Temple, in the photo on the right, is a small complex and is famous, apart from other things, for their triangular-shaped Bamboo. But it was the Autumn scenery that drew me to this Temple. November is a very-important time of year for the children of Japan. "Shichi-Go-San", or the "Seven-Five-Three Festival" is a delight to see/experience as parents bring their children, all dressed in brightly-colored Kimono, to a Shrine for the ceremony that drives-out evil spirits and wish for a long-healthy life.
   "Brass-Monkey" Weather, is the term we use down-under to describe this next time of year (you won't hear the expression used much in Japan). Winter, or Fuyu to the Japanese, means snow and icy conditions and can be scary for some - I had a bad car-accident on Black Ice many years ago, and it still haunts me when I drive on ice to this day - and bring great joy to others. Here, in the Kansai Region, we are fairly sheltered from the "heavy" falls-of-snow - in the 7-years I have been here, there have only been two occasions when snow has fallen in a large amount - unlike those living in the mountainous areas further north.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

The "Snow Corridor in Muroda", here on the left, is a very-popular Winter destination. I have travelled this route, albeit in the cooler Autumn months and, even at that time of year, is a magnificent experience. But, as you can see, the snow hardens so that a corridor is carved-out allowing vehicles to travel-through.
In November 0f 2008 I accompanied four other outdoor enthusiasts for a Weekend in Shiga mountain-biking amongst the Autumn colors but, a few weeks later, Return to Shiga was a very different scene. The area is fairly mountainous and close to the Sea of Japan where the winds from the North Pole turn the moisture in the atmosphere into snow.
   The "Japanese New-Year"  brings with it many festivals. "Hatsumode" - the first Shrine visit of the New-Year - being the most important. Over the three-day period during the New-Year, most Japanese, and Gaijin, visit a Shrine where wishes for the new year are made (in 2006, some 3.5-million people visited Fushimi-Inari Shrine over that three day period). "Omisoka" , will find people very busy preparing for the New-Year, which  includes "Osoji" (I doubt if many of the feminist-movement would consider this "chore" a festival) and "Osechi-ryori", where topics such as Heart Disease, Obesity, Over-Indulgence and Dieting are the least of our concerns. The Osechi-ryori are a work of art and a delight to eat, and are made even more tastier when washed-down with a warm glass of Sake
   Well, there we have it folks. The four seasons of Japan through the eyes of an "Outdoorholic" (that's me just in case you didn't realize).

1 comment:

  1. Yep! Anytime is a good time to visit Japan. Plenty to see & do.

    Love that "your's truly" photo.