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.

 

 

Cherry Blossoms in Japan

We visited Japan at the best time of the year. During hanami season (花見, lit: flower viewing), most parks with cherry trees are in a festive mood.

Unfortunately, due to our busy schedule, there was no time to sit under the trees with food and drink.

Takatoyama Park in Wakamatsu-ku

Cherry blossoms in a small village near Beppu

Cherry Blossoms in Hita

The pink lanterns always add a nice touch to this scenery. At  times, the wind shook the branches and we saw blossoms dancing in the sunshine.

Hanami season in Japan

We still have some funny pictures of our baby son, an excessive drooler at that time, at a hanami picnic, with cherry petals sticking to his face and neck. His drooling had also earned him the nickname よだれくん (yodarekun).

Northern Kyushu

We have been here on Kyushu for two days and we have done more socializing in two days than what I usually get done in two months.

Just today, we had a good bye get-together for a friend who is returning to Yokohama this evening. Then a former student took us to a famous lantern museum (Edo period) with lunch following at a popular Japanese restaurant.

After that I was taken to the patchwork shop in Tobata where I used to take patchwork lessons. Even my former teacher and another student came for this little reunion. This was again followed by cake and coffee. By then, my companions were too tired to join me on another trip down the road to visit a traditional home fully furnished in Japanese antiques.

Now at 8:50 p.m., we are soon off to our last visit, a friend’s mom right here in Wakamatsu. All the other little stops along the way and making arrangements for tomorrow’s plan go unmentioned.

We have already had many good laughs such as earlier when we got picked up once more. Another engagement, another car to hop into. There have been so many pick-ups that we don’t even pay much attention what car we get into when it is waiting out front. My daughter hopped into the first car in front of the gate, I hopped in right after. The driver turned around and cupped her hand over her mouth. It was not who we had expected, but a complete stranger. I managed a couple of  sumimasen and another gomen nasai for good measure. My brother, who had observed everything was doubling over from laughter.

Tomorrow, we are off backpacking and our first stop will be Beppu in northern Kyushu.