I just heard my first Finnish spoken! I’m at the departure lounge at Narita and they called the passengers in Finnish. Very nice it sounded. Didn’t understand a thing but I’ve had a month of understanding almost nothing, so situation normal.
The Finnish cabin crew and pilots aren’t prancing about looking to be movie stars, they seem just straight forward and helpful. Everyday people who work on planes flying.
The lunch was chicken in a white mushroom sauce with salada. White wine from South Africa, coffee and chocolate cake. A white bread sandwich later and more kohe.
There’s not much to see, clouds and Russia below and eventually the arctic sea ice if there’s any left these days.
On the flight map we seem to fly a long way north and then sweep down to Helsinki. Maybe Russian airspace isn’t open to FINNAIR.
Wow the landing at Helsinki was unbelievable the city is blanketed in snow and snow ploughs cleared the runway just before the plane came in.
Took a taxi from the airport, couldn’t believe how the cars hurdle along in the snow and driving left hand. The harbour was frozen over too. After checking into hotel went for a long walk into the city. Double Wowy !!
Couldn’t believe the snow falling, people trudging through it and along comes a mother and child. She is walking down the street towing a sled with her 3-4 year old on board.
Not in Australia!
“Ladies and Gentlemen you are on the Narita Express bound for Narita Airport……………”
So says the announcement. Now I’m leaving Japan till next time.
I’m a little nervous leaving here for unfamiliar Europe. I’ve always felt at home in Japan and it’s safe and inviting.
I took the shinkensen up from Okayama and the highlight was seeing the Fuji-san, snowcapped and above the clouds rising to the heavens.
I spent last night in Tokyo, went up to the top of the Metro Building watching the sun set and the evening lights of the city come on. The blinking red safety lights are so eerie. It looked wonderful though.
Then I went over to the Apple store to check some email, download updates on my iPhone and check out storage devices. Then a last Japanese dinner in Ginza before heading back to the hotel.
It’s a long way to the top if you want to look!
The local train takes about three quarters of an hour to reach Bitchu-Takahashie from Kurushiki. Once there, there are a few historical houses and sites to visit on the way including a samuai house that’s in very good order.
A nihongo map with the sights can be found on a rack at the station or there is a small tourist office that caters to locals that may be of some help. There is no bus to the castle and if you don’t want to walk you may catch a taxi at the station.
If not, get ready for a long walk.
A few kms and some of it up 850 metres of steps and climbing.
If you take a taxi it takes you to a bus shuttle location and then up in the small bus and there’s still a fair climb to the castle. It’s unbelievable how they built the castle up there, perched high on Mt. Gagyu in 1240 AD. It’s Japan highest altitude castle.
The birds view of the river and the town below is awesome. Well worth the hike and climb.
Walking all the way down along the track that leads to Takihachi takes you through a national park and the Japanese bushland. A sign indicates that about 20 bird species that inhabit the area.
Back on the outskirts of the town you pass by microhydro water wheels that are turned by tiny canal flows and feed power out to consumers.
Walking back along the streets to the station seems so easy then.
Sitting down to eat the udon noodles in the laneway off the main canal street in Kurushiki was a delight.
Kurushiki is wonderful small city 17 km from Okayama. There is an old merchant / warehouse area centred on a canal system that used transport food and goods around the city and out to ships to other parts of Japan and the world.
Today it’s a tourist quarter that houses muesums and galleries.
There’s the Omara Gallery that contains work by masters like Picasso, Raffelli, Miro, De Chirico, Kandinsky, Matisse, Warholl and many more.
There are galleries showing the many and varied crafts of Japan including weaving for which this city is famous.
Collections of pottery and ceramics from the second century till today. They are wonderfully presented in old warehouses and purpose-built buildings.
The food from the simple canal cafes to resturants is presented and cared for in the same way as the grand masters and its as fresh as tomorrow.
Kurushiki is worth a visit if you’re in Japan.
I woke to a crystal clear, sunny winter morning overlooking the Sea of Japan. The air temperature is bracing but not freezing as it was in Matsue.
The waves just splash on the shore of this beach as they have for thousands of years. History has seen much here and looking at the samuari walls along the foreshore, the remains of their watchtowers you can feel the stories in your chilled bones.
This morning I’m off to Kurashiki over near Okayama. It’s a long way in time and space. First on the 10:40 local train for 2 hours and one and a bit hours by shinkensen and finally another local train for a bit.
Je Mata to Hagi! Farewell. Soon I’ll be getting my Finland Lonely Planet out for a read.
…………………. Local train turned into local bus and because buses are are subject traffic delays and because of the delay I missed connecting shinkensen. But there’s always another train in Japan. So I ended up going to Hiroshima and then on to Okayama.
From Okayama I changed to the Kirushiki train and commenced 3 days in another Japan. Stay tuned!
Hagi with it’s 56,000 people is a very little town in Japan. There are many villages and hamlets scattered through the mountains and along the coastline that have smaller populations of course but Hagi has played a pivotial part in Japanese history and life, so it outshines it’s size.
Korean pottery styles were adopted here in 14/15th centuries and today the city is crammed with potters spinning bowls and shaping earth.
It was also where the plot was hatched to introduce western technology and trade to Japan. The plot headed by Yoshida failed when the US commander Perry gave him up to his enemies. Yoshida’s dreams were realised but only after he died and his friends went on to be Prime Ministers and Members of the Cabinet.
Today this beautiful city that is an island bounded by two rivers and the Sea of Japan is so quiet. The samurai castle was ripped down as were the giant busts of Lenin in Moscow. In the back streets you can still find real samurai houses and whole neighbourhoods whose walls date back to that era. People live in restored houses from that time. Its old Japan in many ways.
I made my way around the town on a hired bicycle. The traffic here is non existent and it’s as flat as a tack. You can cycle around the laneways and see shrines and traditional housing. Shoji screened houses that Prime Ministers and warriors have lived in. Little steams flow along streets where coloured carp glide. The city is criss-crossed with the canals and streams that people bring into their gardens and homes to watch carp and water movement.
Riding a bike down these lanes and thinking how impossible this would be in other countries like Australia where Big and Fast is the name of the game.
The Japanese environmental fingerprint must be very small with their tiny cars, bicycles and mass transit systems.
Why do we need Big and Fast ?
I’m not sure that we will answer that one before its too late.