Tuesday, 28 April 2015

J Days Reflections (1)…

Convenience Stores & Slippers

We are home and just about over the jet lag which lasted much longer than I was expecting. My sleep patterns simply refuse to slide back into place. By 4pm (midnight Japanese time) I am exhausted, and by 8pm I literally cannot stay awake! At 4am I am wide awake and ready to face a world, which for the most part (at least around me) is still asleep! When we finally get to France this will be 5am.


Trees are pruned like this all over Japan.

To round off our trip I thought that I would reflect on  some of our experiences and illustrate the post with some of the photographs which didn’t reach the blog. Whilst blogging ‘on the run’ the only photographs I had available were those taken on my Ipad, which didn’t always reflect the stunning scenery.


Decor in and around a local restaurant.




Japan has an extensive network of convenience stores. Just in Tom’s very small town/village there are about six, the biggest of which are the Family Mart, The Co-op, and the 7/11. There is also a small supermarket and 100Yen shop. This is repeated a few km away, in the next village.

I remember when growing up (over 50 years ago) on the edge of a small valleys town that almost every street would have a small shop. These were very expensive, but saved the bus journey or walk into town.

In my experience in the UK convenience stores have tended to be significantly more expensive than a supermarket, but win out in that they are…convenient.In recent years the large supermarket chains have opened smaller satellite stores.


In Japan the convenience stores didn’t seem to be very much more expensive, and had an excellent range of fresh food. The convenience store is also the home to ATM’s, photocopying facilities and a refuge for lost or scared children, or indeed adults. The idea is that someone in distress goes there and they undertake to look after the person and alert the police or some other agency.

Although in the Japanese supermarket the range is obviously bigger it isn’t necessarily cheaper, and in some cases are more expensive.

In Japan the wearing of indoor shoes or slippers is culturally very important, and in keeping with tradition we obviously fitted in with this. Japan is a very formal society and in most Japanese homes and schools (and Tom’s is no exception) there is an entrance with a larger than usual step up into the hallway. All outside shoes are left at this lower level and slippers, or at a pinch just socks are worn in the house and particularly on any tatami mats. In the traditional Japanese ryokan hotels this was also the case and slippers were provided to wear inside the hotel and not just in the bedrooms. At Tom’s schools slippers or indoor shoes were necessary and there were even outside areas which were deemed ‘inside’ for slipper wearing purposes!

To add to this a different set of slippers are provided for people to change into as they enter toilet areas, which are deemed unclean, although in our experience every toilet we used was spotlessly clean! Just after he arrived a female Japanese friend visited Tom and informed him that she wouldn’t be able to use the toilet unless separate slippers were available.

He bought slippers…

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

J Day + 27 and 28...

At Kagoshima airport having a surprisingly westernised 'last supper' with Tom before boarding our flight to Tokyo Haneda. By the time you read this we probably be on the second part of the journey to Heathrow. Luckily our bags were transferred directly and we didn't need to collect then for the overnight stay. I think Tim is secretly hoping the bags are temporarily 'lost' and the next time we see them will be when they are delivered to Salt!!

We are bringing a couple of bags back for Tom. He leaves Japan in the summer and he is more concerned with packing and shipping his bike than he is with clothes and books - the difference between sons and daughters!!

The holiday has been magnificent and we shall be sorry to leave Tom, but looking forward to seeing RHiannon. 

One last, but not very clear, view of Fujisan from our hotel at the International terminal. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

J Day +25 and 26 Japanese ‘Mum’…

We’ve finally met Tom’s Japanese 'mum'. Seiko and her husband have taken Tom under their wings and have helped him in so many ways with practical help, advice, support and excellent Japanese food. He is very fortunate to have met such kind and generous people, and we are grateful to them for looking after him so well.




Tom called in to borrow  a strimmer to cut his lawn. They jumped into their van and appeared a few minutes later to cut the lawn and take away the cuttings.


Tom first met Seiko in the supermarket just after he arrived in Japan. She insisted that he have dinner with them and even came to pick him up.

Kindness and generosity doesn’t have national borders…

Saturday, 11 April 2015

J Day + 21, 22, 23 and 24....

We are now back near Kagoshima and have been amusing ourselves with walks along the beach, the Tokku or Kamikaze museum at Chiran and the city, whilst Tom has been working. There are lots of photographs and stories to tell, but they will probably have to wait until we get back to the UK towards the end of next week. As many others have commented, sometimes real life gets in the way of  blogging which is exactly how it should be! 

A couple of days were blurred out with a migraine, but this has thankfully now passed and we as I type we are driving north of Kagoshima to climb Mt Kirishima. The weather is brighter than it has been for a few days.

Sakurajima is performing again today. In fact it performs most days and when we were in the city on Thursday we came home feeling decidedly gritty and dirty, as the wind direction was blowing the fall out over the city.

Just in case you think that food in Japan is all about sushi and sashimi, or that I might be fading away, then check this out...

No, I didn't eat it all myself! Tom needed a session on the bike to work it all off ;0)

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

J Day +17, 18, 19 and 20…

I’m a little behind with my postings and daily count up since arriving in Japan. You can be assured that it is mainly because we’ve been busy enjoying life.

Since the middle of last week I’ve been experiencing some visual disturbances. A quick check online had me assuming the worst retina problems, and treatment with a gas bubble leaving me unable to fly. Simon suffered dreadfully with this last year.

I sought advice from Jean, an expert who knows about these things and so much more. Although very reassuring about what the condition probably was, she obviously couldn’t make an accurate diagnosis by remote control so advised that I had an eye check.

The easiest thing seemed to be to go to a hospital. The first state of the art newly built one didn’t deal with eyes, but a very helpful English-speaking triage nurse pointed out the correct hospital and even rang ahead so they would be expecting us.


After a short wait where the most important thing seemed to be that our insurance and means to pay were verified, I was seen by an excellent young opthalmologist who was extremely thorough.

His diagnosis – floaters. Spot on, Jean! Thank you.

The cost 8250 Yen, about £50. Irrelevant, but which happens to be our travel insurance excess.

What a relief…

Sunday, 5 April 2015

J Day +16 On the road, again

A long journey south today, but nothing seen en route to compare with this small stretch of road which leads up to the 5th Station of Mt Fuji.


A view from Fuji…


Check out this link to a video we took on our way up the mountain…


Only in Japan…

Friday, 3 April 2015

J Day +15 A Yen for them... (updated)


All day! 

We count ourselves fortunate that although it rained all day Wednesday and all day Friday, Thursday was bright, sunny and cloudless for us to view Fujisan and walk around one of the five lakes. Our hotel was above Lake Yamanaka, so the Fugi view was very different

We took the toll road (2,400 ¥ around £15!) up the mountain. We hadn't realised it was a toll road until too late. It was a bit of a disappointment, to say the least. The further up we climbed the less we could see of Fuji, although we had some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. We passed an enormous queue of coaches (around 40) all trying to drive up to the 4th station, when the car park could only take about five coaches. I dread to think how long the people (mainly Chinese) in the coaches had to wait for their view! the 5th station used in the summer months from which to attempt a climb to the summit was obviously closed. Thank goodness Tom wasn't with us or he would have had us hiking up!!!

We quickly decided that being pushed around at the viewing station wasn't for us and headed down to Lake Kawaguchiko, found a good parking place, collected our bento and  set off to see what we could see.

The view fo Fuji from the lakeside....

This is for Tim F. We found a small amount of blossom to frame the shot -taken with my Ipad.

There are a number of sculptures around the lake one of the most fascinating being 'Source', by Seibo Kitamura, thought to be to be Japan's greatest sculptor. He visited the lake at the age of 101 and was deeply moved by the magnificence of the mountain scenery and the mysterious quality of the lake. He then spent the next couple of years creating the work to give form to his feelings of wonder.

Not bad for an oldie...

Thursday, 2 April 2015

J Day + 14 Fuji continued....

Blogging 'on the go' via iPad. The rain we had yesterday was worth it. Today the weather is fantastic and the views of Fuji are stunning...

Although the cherry blossom is out in Tokyo, the mountains around Fuji are a bit behind. It is just starting to blossom in sheltered, sunny areas.

More later...

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

J Day +14 Mt Fuji…

I got up at 5am and captured this shot from the balcony of our room.


Still not the perfect view, but we live in hope…

J Day +13 A Japanese Poisson d'Avril....

After a seven hour drive from Shikoku, via Kobe, we've arrived at our next hotel. It's a lovely hotel in the mountains with a Mt Fuji view, which I know you will all be wanting to see...

A bridge in Kobe. 

It rained for most of the journey, but as we've had excellent weather for the past couple of weeks we shouldn't really complain. We just hope the weather clears up in the next three days and we get to see Mt. Fuji in all it's glory...