Shrine and Temple

New Year is THE big thing in Japan. In the last days of the year, it is time for a deep cleaning in the house, declutter, make everything clean and beautiful to initiate a clean new cycle of life.

in the last 3 days, a lot of time is allocated to prepare special end of the year dishes, Osechi, that you eat cold on december 31. You may order them in advance in gourmet food shops and hotel restaurants at crazy prices.

from January 1 to 3rd, all Japanese must go and pray at the shrine or temple for a healthy and prosperous year – https://youtu.be/1k9Oz4rb0JI

dont expect big ceremonies, full restaurants and party time on december 31 in Japan, most places are closed, it is very quiet!!

 

Less than a month before Sakura and excitement grows!

every year brings its share of business opportunities – a Sakura Bar opens in Minami-Aoyama

Last year was beautiful and we were blessed with the weather, no rain at all, blue sky, Cherry blossoms started on Friday 24th March, allowing to enjoy 2 full week ends!!

 

Kanazawa easy to visit

Kanazawa is becoming very accessible with the Shinkansen in 2h40 from Tokyo. Also, Cathay Pacific will start operating in April to Kanazawa so our neighbors will discover this jewel

please check Kanazawa but also Food in Kanazawa and Kanazawa market. Highly recommend to visit Kenrokuen, one of the 3 most beautiful gardens of Japan

 

Light

When you relocate to Japan, the country of the rising sun expression takes its full expression as you can really appreciate the very special light here

Day rises very early, in the summer time around 4.45am in Tokyo, in winter time around 5.50 am, and sunsets fairly early between 17h00 and 18h00

Autumn and Spring display beautiful Sunrise lights especially and I can tell we are out of winter now in Mid February trusting on these colors

Autumn colors

 

For those of you who wonder what the best season to Japan is, I would say that you need to consider October and November for the autumn colors

Part of the Shinto philosophy is about the nature and Japanese citizens take time to admire nature and season changing. We got into that mode too and spend a lot of time outdoor, peace, hike, wander, weather in Japan is a blessing in that season. temperatures gradually decrease from the exhausting 38 in the summer (90% humidity) to 10 in December, blue sky, dry air, very nice

Wakkanai

That’s it!! I can now say that I explored Japan from North to South, from Wakkanai to Ishigaki!!

We spent 3 days at the end of November in Wakkanai, and visited the northernmost point there.

CLIMATE

VERY cold and snowy already

 

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AMBIANCE

SOOOO unique… it felt like there were no inhabitants, very special, hardly any cars, hardly any people outside in the streets, very old fashioned shops. Most of them have signposts in Russian since we are so close.

There was a very limited choice of restaurants in town, so much so that we had to plan our 3 days around that list and booked them, stick to their working hours, etc

it is also the last train station up north, 2 trains a day to Sapporo, first time that we go to a station where you watch the train coming to you through the window as the rail does not go beyond (see above photo)

 

FOOD

amazingly fresh, simple, fish based, excellent, every meal was of very good quality

we had one lunch above the fish market, that was cute, 2 senior ladies run the place, tatami rooms, set lunch with excellent sashimi

we also had a very good dinner in a sashimi/sushi place

 

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overall, great if you like fish

We realised it had been so many years since we could tell the closest restaurant chain was over 3h drive away (no starbucks, no mc donald, no TGI etc,), there were actually no chains at all and it was even difficult to find a Kombini!! On the Sunday, I needed cash and could not find any ATM, go prepared

PEOPLE

really nice and smiling, curious, happy and proud to see us visiting, willing to share

 

HIGHLIGHTS

fish market – a small place but fantastic products, the fishmongers really tried hard to show us, explain, and even took us in the back office to see the crabs

Northermost point – so windy and cold but wild and beautiful, this is a 40mn bus drive from the train station, very easy, there is a bus every 20mn, they dont take suica or pasmo, you have to buy the ticket at the counter in the station or in the bus if you have change. Once there, apart from the monument itself, there is a hill with a windmill, a shrine and a breathtaking view over Russia and the sea, but my god, was it cold and windy that day!!

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this is a great place for a quiet week end – hiking and walking in the summer must be beautiful – in the winter, meditation, peace,

on day 2, at breakfast, there were deers in the garden behind the hotel. on day 3, we saw more of them wandering in the streets. a different Japan all together, we will go again! loved it after all

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Takao #2

There is one place I love when going to Takao san, it is their restaurant Ukai! This is a beautiful way to finish the day in style, you can either hike in the morning and have a lunch or hike at leisure and get an early dinner, the last order is at 19h00 so dont miss out,

the restaurant is composed of old traditional houses they brought to create a village, each house is a “table” and there are houses for kitchen, service, etc. it is set in the woods with lovely gardens, it is a moment in time

 

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Food is about traditional cuisine, tofu, grilled chicken, river fish grilled in the park, tatami room, waiter in traditional attires, count between 7500 and JPY 10000 all included depending on your menu choice, it is a real experience, good food, good service, but extraordinary day!