30 April 2008

Himeji > Osaka

No chance of snow now, since spring has almost brought forth summer weather here in western Japan! After having good intentions of catching the 5:53 am train from Hiroshima, I ended up taking the 9:25 am train (because I woke up at 7:30 after having okonomiyaki the night before).

With 8 days holiday for "Golden Week", it was my best chance to see Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Thinking I may have only a year in Japan, I went to Kyushu last Christmas holidays, planned for Osaka and Kyoto for "Golden Week" holidays, and then Tokyo, Tohoku, Hokkaido (northern Japan) in Summer holidays (August). Well, I'm (99% sure that I'll be) staying in Hiroshima, Japan another year teaching English at the same SDA school. I enjoy it. So, this coming Christmas, I'll return to Australia for holidays to see family, so that will be good!

I caught JR local trains from Hiroshima, planning to get to Osaka. Other options included shinkansen (bullet train; more expensive), or overnight bus (more tired; more chance of travel sickness; can't stop at places on the way; don't get to see as much of the country side).

So, yesterday, after leaving Hiroshima, we passed through Higashi-Hiroshima, Mihara and Fukuyama. Just before stopping at Okayama for lunch, we passed through Kurashiki. Had lunch a few minutes walk from Okayama station by some stream flowing through the city. It was nice and relaxing. Here in Japan, there seems to be so much water!

Rivers (small streams etc) are plentiful and always flowing, so there is plenty of water for irrigation and other uses. It's nice to see so much water (myself being an Aussie from "dry" Australia).

And, this time of year is when the rice fields are planted. I saw tractors plowing up the small rice fields tucked in between railways and rivers, beside building, next to houses, and at the bottom of hills and moutains. I haven't see large rice fields here. Most fields are no more than 100 m long. This is stark contrast to Australian fields where often the fields are kilometers long and wide. Yet another example of the "compactness" of Japan. Many things are small here. Japan seems to be made up of mountains, cities, and ricefields.

Many rice fields look like they are "flooded" now. They look like little "ponds" or "dams". They thin rice plants are in rows with muddy, but glassy looking water covering the soil with the rice plants sticking up above the water. The water reflects the view well, giving a nice mirror image.

After lunch, caught the next train to Himeji. There's a very famous castle there which I visited. Make sure you have at least an hour to see it. It's large, has many sections, including walls etc. There are nice parks and shrines (among other things) around the castle, and you could easily spend half a day there seeing reasonably good attractions.

Didn't have time to see anything else in Himeji, but had a small meal beside the moat (water around the castle) and stone wall. Nice and relaxing. The sun began to set and gave a nice cool feel during the last lingering moments around the castle. Walked back to the station and headed for Osaka, about 1 hour away using the special rapid service (no extra cost).

On the train yesterday, had time to read some of the Bible (on my mobile phone of course!... this is Japan and technology). Practiced a bit of Japanese with the book I have. Do some praying, relax, look at the window, think about life. Got to meet a few people too. Some high school students filled the train, so I began talking with them. They practice English and I practiced Japanese. We all enjoyed talking. They were quite decent people, offering me a place to sit, some food, and being quite polite.

Met some nice people from Osaka too. From Himeji to Osaka, it's pretty much a continuous strip of built up town/city. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan (after Tokyo), and the 9th largest metropolitan area (including connected cities such as Kyoto, Kobe etc) in the world (!) with about 17 million people!

I saw Osaka from the shinkansen a few months ago, and thought that it did not look that big. So, when I arrived last night in central station, I began to see how large Osaka is, especially after having a salad on the 29th floor overlooking the city! So, yes, Osaka is a big city.

Had some difficulty making my way to the SDA Church in Osaka. There are many train companies, with many train lines, so I asked for some help. The young man with his partner were willing to help. He missed his train (on purpose) so he could help me. Then he said good bye to his partner, caught extra trains and walked me right to where I needed to go! He wouldn't accept anything for helping me. It really showed me something. He's probably not Christian, but he acted just the way I would imagine Christ would want us to act. I was really touched with the kindness of him.

After arriving, met Jermaine and Joseph who are teachers at the SDA English School in Osaka. They English school, church, English church, conference office, and apartments (homes) are all here in the 7 story (SDA) building. I'll be staying here (not far from city centre) for a week or so.

Today I'll probably just cruise around, not doing too much here. Thursday, maybe get out into a remote place, into nature, find an onsen or something like that. Friday, 5 other SDA English teachers will join us! It'll be our last little reunion until we go different ways after we finish our 1 year in July/August this year.

Friday, a bit more around Osaka. Saturday at church etc. Sunday probably Nara. Monday probably Kyoto. Tuesday probably Kobe and then go home.

29 April 2008

Golden Week

Well, have 8 days holiday starting today. I'm leaving Hiroshima for Himeji, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto & Nara. Travelling by local train. Nice warm weather. Expect many crowds during travels. Kyoto is the most historical and cultural centre in Japan, since it was the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years (ending about 200 years ago). Updates and pics to come.

16 April 2008

Mobile Gardening

If you're overseas and you miss Australia, don't worry...
Just watch the Gardening Australia TV program via podcast from ABC... and you'll miss it even more!

And, you can now practice your English (or Japanese kanji) vocabulary on your mobile phone with:
Mobile English Game! (or in Japanese, モバイル英語ゲーム):

15 April 2008


What is that?

It's a town in northern New South Wales with a new radio station. Have a look!


While shopping seeing who?

Well, like you do, you go shopping. If you live in Australia or Japan, you still need to do the shopping. So, tonight, I bought a few things... onions, noodles, tofu, yoghurt, bread and a few other essentials. Of course, almost everything is in Japanese, but I've pretty much remembered where most common things are and what they look like. It's looking for new things, which is difficult, and takes so much longer to find out what it is. Being mostly vegetarian makes it even more fun... reading ingredients is not a quick process.

Anyway, off to the check-out I go. (By the way, Aussie trollies are huge compared to the little carts they have here). Pay for the food in yen. Pack the groceries in the plastic bags and... "Hello!"

One of the grade 2 girls from the primary school I teach English at comes up and says g'day. Shops close at 10pm, but it's only about 9pm now. She tells me about school and a few other things in Japanese. I understand some of it. She points to her big sister and mum who's almost ready to leave.

"Bye bye", she says, after her mum says it's time to go. "Oyasumi", I say.

... it's things like that that make life here nice.

06 April 2008

Today was the day

Yes, today was the day you should have been outside looking at cherry blossoms! Sunday, 6 April in Hiroshima, Japan, was a fine day (despite last week's weather prediction), warm weather, cherry blossoms at full bloom, and every man and his dog was out under the cherry trees having parties and picnics with family and friends. Japanese culture at one of its best.

For those in cooler climates of Japan, you time will come soon, but for everyone else, you'll have to wait until next year :-)

04 April 2008

Petrol down, Flowers out!

Don't ask my why I quoted the petrol (fuel, gasoline) price in my last post, but the next day it dropped 25 yen per litre! Something to do with government stuff. Wow! Now it's 125 yen per litre, and I've seen 118 yen. Nice! But, doesn't make my bicycle any cheaper.

And, flowers are out. Cherry blossoms are blooming and making a beautiful scene around this city and much of Japan. It's a real culture thing. Families, work colleages, group of friends, out under the cherry blossoms, eating, kicking a ball around, taking photos and having a nice time in the sun!

Now, time for a bike ride into the country (get out of the city!).

And then... Sabbath rest starting this evening.

02 April 2008


The price of petrol is 150 yen per litre.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are a little expensive but good quality.
Cherry blossoms are about to reach their full bloom.
Wrote emails to friends back in Australia today.
Enjoyed another day of English teaching.
April 1 is when many people in Japan begin a new job.
Learning Japanese challenging, but fun and interesting.
Walking around the streets of Hiroshima at night seems to be quite safe.
I'm trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Things in Japan are very organised and structured, defined and often predictable.
Sometimes in the morning in Hiroshima I can smell something in the air which I think is the "fumes" or "burnt metal smell" from some of the industries in the city here (maybe Mazda or Mitsubishi?).
Japan knows how to present things well... many things look really good here... and often, they ARE good (quality etc).
Japan knows how to give presents. It's a gift giving culture.
Some new staff members came to our school recently.
I look forward to making some more friends and working together.
A good friend just left Hiroshima and moved to another city.
Now it's time to do the washing up.
Good night.