JR Railway and Telephone Cards from Japan

In the 1990s, we spent three years in Japan and during that time, we often used prepaid JR railway cards and prepaid telephone cards. Now, 25 years later, I’m glad I kept them.

 

Kitakyushu University

 

Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu

 

Kitakyushu International Association

 

JR Kyushu Tobata Eki

April Cherry Blossoms in Kitakyushu, Japan

Thanks to my friend Yoshiko for contributing these cherry blossom photos taken in Wakamatsu-ku, Kitakyushi-shi.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

April is my personal favorite month in Japan. It is usually warm and sunny and perfect for any kind of outdoor activity such as picnics, biking, sight-seeing, etc. I find the summer just too stifling hot with its subtropical climate. Try getting up at 6:20am and by the time you have started making coffee, the sweat is already running down on the back of your knees. That’s June, July and August for you in Japan.

Hanami

Hanami

I do miss this hanami (花見, lit. “flower viewing”) time in Japan. That’s pretty much one of the rare times you see Japanese eating and drinking outside. We Westerners like to sit in outdoor restaurants, such as bier gardens in Germany, but most Asians rather sit inside to avoid the sun (and aging). I personally would rather sit outside on a warm and dry summer day… and age a bit.

Mt. Sarakura, Yahatahigashi-ku in Kitakyushu-shi

Mt. Sarakura, Yahatahigashi-ku in Kitakyushu-shi

My husband is on Kyushu right now with three friends, biking around Fukuoka.

Cherry Blossoms in Japan

This is the time of year, when the cherry blossoms (sakura) are out, I truly miss Japan. This cherry blossom viewing (hanami) usually lasts for about 7 – 10 days in spring and you can follow the course of it, moving south to north, via every weather channel.

My friend Yoshiko from Kitakyushu has just sent me these photos and with her permission, I want to share a bit of this Japanese spring with you.

Before posting this, I went through my journals looking for entries made about hanami during that time. I was hoping to recall some special memories, but I only found one entry.

My husband, three-month old Thomas, and I were in a small park, where a drunk kept yacking at us while taking our photos. Unfortunately, this was the only entry I could find.

Another year, we were all stricken with the stomach flu and the third one was filled with mostly cool and rainy days. You see, memories are sometimes fonder than the actual experiences (when daily life catches ups with us).

On the two occasions, when I revisited Japan in 2008 and 2012, I got to experience hanami in all its glory.

Anyway, these photos below were taken on 20 and 21 March 2013.

Cherry blossoms in Japan

 

Kokura Castle in Kitakyushu

If you happen to read this and would like to tell your most memorable cherry blossom event in Kitakyushu to NHK, you can apply here. Deadline is 28 March and your entry needs to be in Japanese.

 

 

Blossoms and Japanese porcelain

One of the things I brought back from Japan a long time ago was a new perspective on common items.

The first time I saw spaghetti served like a sandwich on a bread roll in Japan, my thoughts went from culinary shock to sheer amazement. I learned then you could take two common items and put them together in a new form, you’ve got an invention.

The one below is not a new one, but it had been for me at that time. I saw the Japanese housewife trimming pretty blossoms off otherwise dead plants and placing them in water in a color contrasting bowl.

Japanese aesthetics

This is what I did today with a dead bouquet and an antique Imari bowl brought back from Japan. I enjoyed this part of recycling and recreating.
The Story of Imari: The Symbols and Mysteries of Antique Japanese Porcelain from Amazon.com

Sushi Chocolates

Just a couple of days ago, I got this little packet of sushi chocolates in the mail from a friend of mine. For protection, my friend was wrapped the box in the very last printed issue of the Himawari magazine, published by the Kitakyushu International Association (KIA). She knew I would appreciate the magazine as I used to work at the Kokusai Center (another name for KIA).

Underneath each beautiful wrapper, there was a small chocolate bar of medium quality. But the enclosed green packet contained wasabi- flavored choco balls. Unusual, but tasty with an interesting twist.

Sushi chocolates including wasabi chocolate balls

This box of chocolates costs about 500 Yen (the value declared for customs).

I had never seen sushi chocolates before. If I could get my hands on them, I would buy several boxes as they make nice presents for the many Japan aficionados I know.

I wonder if this product is available in Germany.