zondag 22 november 2009

Family BBQ photos

I took so many pictures the past months. BBQ work, BBQ Family, wedding friends, holidays, sailing trips... and many more. Due to the trip to Japan, I had not the time to work on all of these pictures. Now I do.
So a bit late, but here are the pictures of our great family weekend in summer 2009.
Everybody thanks for being there and having fun.
Enjoy the pix!

dinsdag 3 november 2009

Tuesday November 3, UNESCO sites! (Nara, Horyuji)

9 C Blue sky, later clouded and still chilly with 14C orso.
We have seen so many UNESCO selected treasures of Japan as part of the World Heritage, today we even go to two major important sites. Nara with the tallest wooden building and a Budha of 16 meters and Horyuji, with the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world and the first Buddhist structures of the year 670.
After a small 1 hour train ride we arrive at Nara. A very friendly and informative lady gives us a free map and plenty of information to have a 3-5 hours walk in the area. Its about 20 minutes walk to the first sightseeing spot just outside the center of the little town Nara. A large 5-story and a 3-story Pagoda next to the Kofukuji-temple from the 14th century. Surprising enough more a pentagon shape than a square building. Near the Nara museum its enormously crowded. We read about special treasures being showed in the museum, but apparently we were not the only ones knowing this. We skip the enormously large cues and go to the Nandaimon Gate(from the year 1203) towards the Todaiji Temple (500Yen fee). This is the largest wooden structure in the world, and indeed, its huge! The Buddha inside building is more than 16 meters high! All people here look like dwarfs compared with these large structures. Walking between all the deer (there are many of them here and have a special purpose to keep the gods in a good mood) we pass the enormous large “Great Bell”. The Nigatsu-do Hall we climb the stairs, with it reaching the highest point where you can enjoy the view over the sites and Nara. We walk towards the other important site in Japan, the Kasuga Grand Shrine, with the largest (3000) stone lanterns. And these lanterns are bigger than a human, so 3000 of them is quite an impressive sight. It all takes about 4-5 hours to see and walk all of this. We walk back to the station to try to be in time for the next important site in Japan, Horyuji Temple.
The 3th station we get out the train and an unmanned information spot in the station has some free maps. On the map is a pink path marked towards the Temples, indicating its 20 minutes walk. Next to the counter is a sign, stating the temples close at 17:00. Our books indicated an earlier time, so we are lucky. Later at the temple we notice we are even more lucky today, as these closing times are until November 3(today). From November 4th they close earlier. Lucky us. The walk is not complex, nor hard so we arrive within the 20 minutes. The fee is 1000 per person, but you get 3 tickets to visit the different sites (Saiin Garan, Daihozoin and Toin Garan). The contain the world's oldest wooden surviving (earthquakes, fires etc) structures on earth. Together with other cultural treasures convey images of Japan from over 1300 years ago. Therefor this group of architectural monuments are the first of any kind in Japan selected by UNESCO as part of World Heritage. The structures are indeed in excellent shape and great to watch. The cold weather is now showing some sunlight, so this gives great light for the photographs. Inside are great looking Buddhas, although not as big as Nara, they are big. There is a nice garden and temples with very old treasures, although sometimes very dark and hard to see. The museum (rather new building from 1998) has some very old and great artifacts, even from the 6th, 7th centuries. Just before they close and before darkness sets in, we complete the trip on this impressive site.
We go back to the train and on the way back we see a Japanese restaurant where we order some nice dinners with rice, dumplings, noodles, fried beef and fried shrimps. At the way back we pass a large supermarket where we find ourselves buys very delicious chocolate, filled with cream and cooled deserts. A long but very impressive day ends at our home, err.. hotel again.

Monday November 2, Rain thus Shopping :-)

Rain, wind and cold.
It indeed rains and there is a lot of wind, as we had seen on internet predicted. We set our plans accordingly already, so today became a shop-till-you-drop day. Rinky-town, only 1 station before the Kansai Airport and for us 1 hour from the hotel is our target. Its a big double layer shopping mall. Just as we are used to from our USA holidays, so we know how it works here ;-)
We shop a lot and find ourselves succeeding with sweaters, jacket, small gifts (chopsticks) etc. The weather is still very windy, although the rain has stopped. We eat excellent Chinese food with many small dishes. Including dumplings that have been steamed and than 1 side lightly grilled. Delicious!
We are surprised to see there are no elements attached to the products to prevent theft. There are also no alarm ports at the entrances. Apparently they trust the people here. In Europe, especially in the Netherlands, we have so many theft prevention measures (Camera's, alarm ports, inkt cartridges attached to clothing, security guards...). This shopping in Japan is so more relaxed! Finally you get a feeling people trust you and treat you as a customer, not as a thief.
Back at Osaka we search for the Starbucks, as this cold weather made us hungry for hot chocolate. But this underground shopping area is so enormously huge, we find ourselves lost a couple of times. When we get the map to look for where we are, we see a nice lady approaching offering us help. She even walks with us in the underground maze. After 30 minutes orso we found it and enjoy an extra large cup.
At the evening we chat with family and had a nice surprise as Tomo, our friend from Kanazawa, appears online on Skype. We have a chat and satisfied we end the long day.

Sunday November 1, Osaka Aquarium

Rain, Rain, Rain
Osaka Aquarium
The expectations where bad for today and indeed its raining badly. We decide to go for the Osaka Aquarium. One of the largest in the world. Its rather busy, but after all its weekend, so many families are here too. But its not so crowded that you can not watch the many species they have here. Its a wonderful and very large complex and we enjoy it very much. The feeding of the great whales is done by a diver, and we can watch every bit of it behind the enormous large glass windows.
In Osaka we go hunt for food. In the large department store we buy all kind of small amounts of Japanese food, that we want to eat in our hotel. Shrimps, vegetables salad, fruit salad, rice rolled in egg, different sticks with meat. All appeared to be great stuff, except for one type of stick with meat. It appears to be liver, something we both do not like. But the rest compensates more than enough for this loss with food gambling ;-).

Saturday October 31, Kyoto sightseeing

Sunny with clouds, but nice weather today.
At Kyoto we first checkout the architectural aspects of the station. Its huge and nicely build. From there we take the bus, but all signs and information is in Japanese unfortunately. So I decide to mark all the Japanese stops on a map, so we can determine where we are and, more important, where we need to press the stop sign to get out. Ginkakuji-michi bus stop we need to get out. From there we go to the beautiful Hakusasonso Garden, with its famous Silver Pavilion, but its under renovation. Its near the start of the famous Path of Philosophy, that with this great weather is fun to follow. We get in some of the shops and even buy some Japanese handcrafts. We also have the typical for this region, kind of pancakes with fruit and icecream. Its a no brainer, that we like that stuff :-)
We also watch the nice Eikando and Nanzenji Temples, before going to the well known Yoshida Shrine and the temples near it. A large complex and with the low hanging sun a great time to shoot some more pictures.
We go to the Kyoto Handcrafts Center with 2 buildings and 6 floors, a lot can be seen in a centralized way. Its very nice, but also rather expensive so we end up only watching the good stuff. Its already dark after a long day and we walk back to the Kyoto Station. A rather long walk and feels tough after already walking a whole day. Some kind of fast food like restaurant, but with Japanese (normal) food can be ordered via a vending machine. Its a gamble again what we order. No English menu, no or bad pictures and we order by price and a vague picture. It ends up good enough again. Not sure if we were so desperate for food or really enjoyed it, but we ate it all and were satisfied. It was also a nice boost and rest to be able to walk the last miles to the station back and fall down on the beds of the hotel to sleep.

Friday October 30 , Travel, Osaka, Kyoto

Its nice weather today, we hope next week it will continue like this in Kyoto. Sun, 23C.
Travel from Oita to Shin-Osaka, Kyoto.
In the train to Osaka, we meet real Europeans. Not that we spoke to them or anything, but it was a couple with 2 small children and they made a lot of noise. They even started a DVD movie for the children. The whole train was able to “enjoy” their noise. So blunt. To make it worse, the mom had real Japanese food, eating it, with her hands, dropping most of the food back in the box. I notice after 3 weeks being between respectful, thoughtful and polite Japanese you start to get irritated with this kind of rude behavior. Not sure what nationality they are, they speak French. So different when we had 60 school children in the train one week ago, they were silent. This little Western family of 4 makes more noise than 60 Japanese schoolchildren. I put the earplugs of my music a little deeper into my ears and continue writing my blog, while moving to Osaka with 300km/hour.
We arrive at the station, we need an other train for 5 minutes to go to ShinOsaka, where our hotel is. We store our luggage and walk(8 mins) back to the ShinOsaka station and set course to Osaka. The Osaka station is huge. The underground shopping area is even bigger. It seems they build a city in a city under a city... We walk towards the Floating Garden Observatory, where the Umeda Sky Building is located. Nice architecture and fine technology combined. We walk back to downtown Osaka, take the Osaka loop-train towards the Osaka Castle. Not to visit it, but to watch it from the park. Its already late, so we hope some lights beam it towards a nice photograph opportunity. Near the castle is also a large sport dome, where Apparently a concert (named “Calling”) of a famous rock band is going to take place. The area is crowded, especially with women taking pictures with their cellphones of the trucks outside. The park and castle are ok and we stroll back to the train. At the Osaka station we find a restaurant with a pile of unknown food, covered by a large egg. We gamble a bit, by ordering it. Under the egg is rice with tomato sauce and actually it tastes rather nice. We go back to the hotel.

Update also made to trip to Volcano!


maandag 2 november 2009

2 updates to the blog

Time is becoming scares for the trip. We are in our final week, so less time to update the blog.
But I did update the blog for 2 days. Enjoy:
These 2 days have been completed now:
Marcel San.

zondag 1 november 2009

(Updated Nov 3th) Thursday October 29, Aso Vulcano

Clear skies and nice temperature. Excellent weather to get into the mountains, which we are going to do today.
Aso Volcano in Aso-Kuju National Park
The trip is early and long to Aso Station. We did manage to get hold of the limited express, which saves us from hopping on and off of 4 trains. Back to Oita only 2 of such trains travel, so we need to carefully plan the day. The limited express takes roughly 2 hours. We arrive in also sunny Aso station. We want to buy tickets for the bus, but we first need to see the information center says the ticket office. As there is a warning and closure going on at the moment, because of toxic gasses that are lethal to humans. They take that very serious here, especially after recently two tourist died of this. Indeed, at the information office we hear the cable car is closed and nobody is allowed to enter near 1 km of the crater, due to the wind direction. We buy bus tickets to go up the mountain, but until the museum, which is a little below this “No Go”-area. We can see from here the smoke coming out of the volcano and being blown over the sightseeing area. No cars or cable cars go up to the top. We are unlucky, but we can not change the mountain nor the weather. So we enjoy the museum instead.
At the end of the museum, its almost empty by now, there is a live webcam view including joysticks to controle the webcam. Of course I play with this and zoom in and out etc. I also pan the camera over the edge of the volcano, just to check if there is indeed still no human activity. But.... I see people!!! Whow. I zoom in on the road, and see cars going up. Also the cable car is running. So we run out of the museum to the bus stop to get to the top. Missed the bus with 5 minutes and the next is in a few hours, so we decide to walk up hill. A big climb, but we made it to the cable cars. A large amount we pay and reach the top. To be able to get to the right train back to the hotel (only 1 in the afternoon travels) we have only 5 minutes to watch the top, get back with the cable car and get the last bus... we decide to stay longer and or go hitch hiking or catch a train 3 hours later. It would be a pity not to enjoy an active volcano, largest in Japan, one of the largest in the world and now with good wind conditions open for public.
Its a marvelous view, horrible smell and exceptional good weather. The looks inside the crater amazes us. The colors, the bubbles, the smoke, the gasses... whow.
A band in Holland we listen to and visit concerts of, is “De Dijk”(The Dyke), They have a song “Dansen op de vulkaan”(dancing on the volcano). So I decided to act accordingly, and started to dance on the volcano and let Sheila tape it on video. Many people watch that grazy Dutch guy, but enjoy it also and smile too. ;-)
After a while we go to the cable car down hill and to the parking spot to do some hitch hiking. No luck. So we already strike through the possibility to reach the train station in time. We start to walk down, towards the museum again. In the meanwhile I keep my thumbs up and many cars pass by. Two stop, but it ends up they do not go to the station. But than, one car stops. A friendly Japanese gentleman lives near the station and is proud on the Aso Mountain so always is willing to help tourists. We now are able to reach the station in time! Lucky us again. We have some great talks with the man and reach the station in 45 minutes or so. The slow but with a nice view on the mountains train ride starts according to train schedule and we are on our way to the hotel.
A few hours later we end this great day dancing on the volcano.