Chapter I
Japan

Japanese walkabouts

Blending technology and ancient traditions, Japan is a land of contrasts that has attracted me since my youth. Mid 2015, at the end of several years of studies that leave me with questions for the future, I decided to leave alone on a trip across the country. I wander through Kyushu, Honshu, Okinawa, Shikoku. And faces the difficulties of comprehension and the weight of history.

Themes

The stories

Travel in Japan

Since 3, 4 years, the idea of going on a long journey after my studies kept running through my head. Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, here are the destinations I had in mind.

Tokyo Impressions (Part 1/2)

First week in Tokyo. The flight went well, although it seemed a little long at the end. 11:30 flight, it’s not an easy task. The 8-hour time difference with France were felt, especially at the beginning of the week. The weather was cloudy almost everyday. The hotel is very simple (tatami and futon), but I did not encounter many people. Despite my (few) hours of learning, I have some difficulty for speaking Japanese. These first few days have left me a strange feeling. Between familiarity, originality and solitude.

Tokyo Impressions (part 2/2)

Second part of my article about my first impressions of Tokyo. The weekend went well. The weather having cleared a bit, it allowed me to see Tokyo in a different light. I also met Michiko, Japanese living in Chiba, a town about 2 hours from Tokyo. I corresponded with Michiko for several weeks via internet before coming to Japan.

Last days in Tokyo

This second week, I stayed in a Japanese family living in Arakawa district and I continued my walk in Tokyo. I saw a Kabuki play, enjoyed the Christmas illuminations and continue to adapt myself to the Japan way.

Arrival in Shikoku

From November 24th to December 2nd, I’m going for a walk on Shikoku Island. It is the smallest of the four big islands of Japan. Shikoku is famous for its mountainous landscapes, its small fishing villages and especially the pilgrimage of 88 temples. First step of this journey: Tokushima.

Minami, facing the sea

After spending the morning of Wednesday, November 25 to organise the details, in Tokushima, departure in the afternoon for Minami. I take a small regional train of two cars that are filled a little bit more at each stop. All the schoolchildren in the room take the same line.

Hiking in the Iya Valley

Direction the Valley of Iya. Located in the heart of the mountain, with deep gorges and thick forests. At the end of the 12th century, following the war of Gempei, the last members of the Heike clan after their defeat against the Minamoto, found refuge here. Apparently their descendants still live in the valley. 

Meeting with the sun in Kôchi

At first sight Kochi is very similar to Tokushima (from an architectural point of view), but there is a feeling of “more of the South”. Located on the Kagami river delta (which means “Mirror”, the water of the river being particularly pure), Kôchi saw the birth lots of samurai famous in history.

Hiroshima and the weight of history

Hiroshima. And the Atomic Bomb. Visiting the city I go for the Genbaku Dome and the Peace Memorial and Museum. The visit is really painful but extremely recommended. The weight of history is pushing my body to the ground. Hard to believe when I walk across the city now that all this horror happened before.

Miyajima and Itsukushima shrine

Visit of the island of Miyajima with Doris. Forty minutes by tram and ten minutes by ferry and here we are on the sacred island of Miyajima. It is forbidden to be born there, to die there and to cut trees. The vegetation is lush and the various temples and shrines housed in the island are beautiful.

Arrival on Kyûshû

Departure from Hiroshima for the island of Kyûshû where I will spend the month of December.  Kyushu is one of Japan’s four major islands. It is the southernmost of the islands and is considered to be the birthplace of Japanese civilization. The island is mountainous with many volcanoes.

Wwoofing in Yufuin

My first two weeks of Wwoofing at Youth Hostel Country Road went very well. I had originally planned to leave on Monday 21st December, but I will finally stay more. I really like Yufuin and Ryo-san offered me to accompany them to see the festivities in Beppu, at the occasion of Christmas.

On the trail of Kyûshû volcanoes (Part 1/2)

The end of my woofing was very quiet as the hostel was closed on December 23rd and 24th. On the evening of the 23rd we went to see the Christmas Festival in Beppu as planned. Alas it was raining, which made the evening gloomy. I was expecting a real ” matsuri ” but not really.

On the trail of Kyûshû volcanoes (part 2/2)

After a short crossing of 1 hour, I arrived in the city of Shimabara, northeast of the Shimabara Peninsula, located in Nagasaki Prefecture. It is a nice cold sun. After leaving my bag at the hostel, I walk quietly around. Shimabara is a small port city stretching along the coast at the foot of Mount Mayuyama.

Yakushima, in the footsteps of Miyazaki

Tuesday, January 5, early in the morning, a ferry carries me on the island of Yakushima. Located in the archipelago of Osumi, the island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. Yakushima’s environment has inspired Hayao Miyazaki for the achievement of Princess Mononoke.

Head to the stars in Tanegashima

Tanegashima is a long narrow strip of land 20 km northeast of Yakushima. Not very popular with tourists but popular with surfers, the island has one of Japan’s leading space centers, Japan’s JAXA or Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Gray weather in Okinawa

Semi-tropical island, the Ryukyu Islands are more like Hawaii, Brazil or Southeast Asian than the rest of Japan. The Ryukyu archipelago of which Okinawa is part, was for centuries independent of Japan. For a long time, the islands were ruled by local chiefs until 1429, when Sho Hashi founded the Ryukyu dynasty.

Paradise moment on Kerama islands

I arrive on the island of Aka-jima under cloudy weather but I like the peaceful atmosphere and the tiny village instantly. The lady from my guesthouse came to pick me up. A young German who arrived by the ferry is also staying at the Kawai Diving Hostel.

Two weeks in the vicinity of Ôgimi

Monday, January 18, departure at 8am from Nago for Ôgimi, a small rural town in the north of Okinawa where my new woofing is located, on a dairy farm. I arrive half an hour later at the Konbini (small supermarkets open 24/7 present everywhere) where is the meeting place. I call the farm using a landline and wait almost an hour for my contact to pick me up. A little grandma finally landed. Keiko Kiyuna, the owner of the farm.

Meeting with the sea creatures of the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Thursday January 28 I leave Kiyuna Farm early to visit the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, located on the Motobu Peninsula northwest of the city of Nago. Located within the Ocean Expo Park, the aquarium houses the world’s largest pool of 7500m3, featuring species (including whale sharks and giant manta rays) found in Okinawa waters.

Glimpse : Taste of old times

First weeks in Tajimi. Mixture of antiquity and modernity in a jumble full of charm. Mountain environment, fresh breeze and sunshine warming the landscape.

Glimpse : Kawaii ceramic deities

Bad weather in Tajimi. The city looks sad. Discovered by chance a few streets dedicated to ceramics. Explosion of shapes and colors. Houses with traditional architecture. Charm from the past. Feeling of wonder.

Glimpse : Back to work

Already three weeks of work at the TYK factory in Tajimi. Manufacturer of refractory and fine ceramics for the industry. Uniforms and helmets for all. Group stretching every morning.

February in Tajimi

Tajimi is an industrial city located in the prefecture of Gifu in central Japan also called Chubu region. Located at the beginning of the mountains of central Japan, Tajimi spreads its outer quarters through the hills while the city center is in a small valley where the Toki River flows. Climbing on the heights we can see the volcanoes Haku and Ontake, two active stratovolcanoes.

A weekend in Nagoya

Nagoya being an hour away by train from Tajimi, I took a weekend to visit it. First stop: Aichi Park in Nagakute Commune in the eastern hills of Nagoya.

Glimpse : Cuties codrivers collection

Protectors? Codrivers? Placed here because there is space? Behind the windshield of one of TYK dormitory cars, watching me go every morning, is a cute collection of small plush characters. Icons from different eras on display behind the glass.

Ride through the Gasshō-zukuri

Taking advantage of the fact that Monday, March 21st is a public holiday in Japan, I went for a three-day weekend to visit the regions of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. Stretching along the Shogawa River in the remote mountains of northern Gifu Prefecture to Toyama Prefecture, the place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Focus: In the shoes of a TYK worker

As promised, here are the articles about my work at the TYK factory in Tajimi. In this first article you are gonna discover about thirty photos of the life of a TYK worker and my vision of the factory during my two months of work, from February to March 2016.

Focus : Another vision of TYK

Through a gallery of about twenty photographs in black and white and color, take a different look on TYK environment.