The innkeepers, an elderly couple, set me up for the meal. Tatami mats on the floor, coffee table and an alcove in the center used to make fire to heat the tea kettle hanging from the ceiling! All that’s missing is kimonos, removing the TV that is sitting in a corner, lighting the fire and you would feel back in time. On the table is waiting for me a dozen different dishes: a cooked fish, meat, a bowl of rice, an orange, miso soup, salad, cucumbers and other dishes whose ingredients I do not know. I eat everything except for a kind of little pink cream, way too spicy for me, which turns out to be, after asking, the seasoning for the salad. The sauce is made from salted plums or “umeboshi” which are macerated in salt.

John Doe

The innkeepers, an elderly couple, set me up for the meal. On the table is waiting for me a dozen different dishes: a cooked fish, meat, a bowl of rice, an orange, miso soup, salad, cucumbers and other dishes whose ingredients I do not know. I eat everything except for a kind of little pink cream, way too spicy for me, which turns out to be, after asking, the seasoning for the salad. The sauce is made from salted plums or “umeboshi” which are macerated in salt.

John Doe

CHAPTER I

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 full of questions about the future, I decided to go alone on a journey across the country. I wander through Kyushu, Honshu, Okinawa, Shikoku. And faces the language barrier and the weight of history.

CHAPTER I

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 full of questions about the future, I decided to go alone on a journey across the country. I wander through Kyushu, Honshu, Okinawa, Shikoku. And faces the language barrier and the weight of history.

Dispatches

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.

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.

Focus : Portraits of TYK

Small portrait gallery for you to discover a few people with whom I worked during these two months working at TYK.

Focus TYK : Discoveries with Kanji-san

On my first day in the New Material Team, Kanji-san took me with him to Akechi Ceramics factory. On the way we made many stops and detours and the trip to the factory turned into a discovery of the region!

Focus TYK : Meet Polina

Discover Polina and her family, a young Russian working at TYK that I met a fortnight before the end of my stay in Tajimi.

Kyoto Overview (last day in TYK)

For my last day of work, Thursday, March 31, TYK organized for me a day trip in Kyoto! Visiting several temples to go enjoy the cherry blossoms, eating in a high Japanese cuisine restaurant and watching a dance performance by Geishas are on the program! Followed by a meal to celebrate my departure with the leaders of TYK in Tajimi the evening! Excited I join Kaku-san whom accompanying me during this busy day!

Spring arrival in Tajimi

March ended a few days ago and with it my work at TYK. This second month in Tajimi was an opportunity to see nature evolve with the arrival of spring and spend a second month TYK more pleasant than the first.

Kyoto Snapshots

From April 1 to 8, I visited Kyoto. Some pictures to show you a first glimpse of the city.

Takayama matsuri

After TYK, I went back to Takayama to see the famous Takayama Matsuri dedicated to the celebration of spring and good harvests. From 14 to 15 April, on the occasion of the Sannô festival, each Takayama district presents a decorated float or Yatai which parades in a long procession around the Hie-Jinja sanctuary.

The best of Kyoto

After Takayama Matsuri I headed back to Kyoto and its amazing atmosphere (but full of tourists) for another week to explore the city. I made a photographic selection of the places and things that have struck me most during this week full of wonder.

Passage to Osaka and Nara

From April 8 to 11, 2016, I spent a few days in Osaka and Nara. After my week-long intensive visits to Kyoto, having a delay in my articles and a certain fatigue combined with painful neck pain, I finally spent a lot of time at the hostel in Osaka where I had booked four nights. My visits to Osaka and Nara were therefore rather short.

The mystical atmosphere of Koya-san

After Osaka and Nara I spent a weekend on Mount Koya-san. It is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important sect introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (or Kukai), one of Japan’s most famous priests.

Taking part in TYK Hanami

Back to Tajimi to take part in the TYK hanami. I find the team that I left a few weeks ago for a last evening with everyone. It gives me pleasure to spend time with my “colleagues” again.

Wwoofing at Goka farm

After TYK Hanami, I spent next ten days doing wwoofing in Goka Farm, a Japanese family living in a remote mountain valley not far from Mt Fuji. They decided to live in self-sufficiency, trying to depend as little as possible on the government and respecting nature. An experience full of discoveries.

Last days in Japan

After 10 days in the heart of nature, the return to civilization is a shock to me. It’s almost too noisy and lively. But my stay in Japan is coming to an end. I have barely a week left before leaving the land of the rising sun. So I enjoy wandering around and going to the Ghibli Museum.

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.

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.

Focus : Portraits of TYK

Small portrait gallery for you to discover a few people with whom I worked during these two months working at TYK.

Focus TYK : Discoveries with Kanji-san

On my first day in the New Material Team, Kanji-san took me with him to Akechi Ceramics factory. On the way we made many stops and detours and the trip to the factory turned into a discovery of the region!

Focus TYK : Meet Polina

Discover Polina and her family, a young Russian working at TYK that I met a fortnight before the end of my stay in Tajimi.

Kyoto Overview (last day in TYK)

For my last day of work, Thursday, March 31, TYK organized for me a day trip in Kyoto! Visiting several temples to go enjoy the cherry blossoms, eating in a high Japanese cuisine restaurant and watching a dance performance by Geishas are on the program! Followed by a meal to celebrate my departure with the leaders of TYK in Tajimi the evening! Excited I join Kaku-san whom accompanying me during this busy day!

Spring arrival in Tajimi

March ended a few days ago and with it my work at TYK. This second month in Tajimi was an opportunity to see nature evolve with the arrival of spring and spend a second month TYK more pleasant than the first.

Kyoto Snapshots

From April 1 to 8, I visited Kyoto. Some pictures to show you a first glimpse of the city.

Takayama matsuri

After TYK, I went back to Takayama to see the famous Takayama Matsuri dedicated to the celebration of spring and good harvests. From 14 to 15 April, on the occasion of the Sannô festival, each Takayama district presents a decorated float or Yatai which parades in a long procession around the Hie-Jinja sanctuary.

The best of Kyoto

After Takayama Matsuri I headed back to Kyoto and its amazing atmosphere (but full of tourists) for another week to explore the city. I made a photographic selection of the places and things that have struck me most during this week full of wonder.

Passage to Osaka and Nara

From April 8 to 11, 2016, I spent a few days in Osaka and Nara. After my week-long intensive visits to Kyoto, having a delay in my articles and a certain fatigue combined with painful neck pain, I finally spent a lot of time at the hostel in Osaka where I had booked four nights. My visits to Osaka and Nara were therefore rather short.

The mystical atmosphere of Koya-san

After Osaka and Nara I spent a weekend on Mount Koya-san. It is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important sect introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (or Kukai), one of Japan’s most famous priests.

Taking part in TYK Hanami

Back to Tajimi to take part in the TYK hanami. I find the team that I left a few weeks ago for a last evening with everyone. It gives me pleasure to spend time with my “colleagues” again.

Wwoofing at Goka farm

After TYK Hanami, I spent next ten days doing wwoofing in Goka Farm, a Japanese family living in a remote mountain valley not far from Mt Fuji. They decided to live in self-sufficiency, trying to depend as little as possible on the government and respecting nature. An experience full of discoveries.

Last days in Japan

After 10 days in the heart of nature, the return to civilization is a shock to me. It’s almost too noisy and lively. But my stay in Japan is coming to an end. I have barely a week left before leaving the land of the rising sun. So I enjoy wandering around and going to the Ghibli Museum.

Dispatches

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.

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.

Focus : Portraits of TYK

Small portrait gallery for you to discover a few people with whom I worked during these two months working at TYK.

Focus TYK : Discoveries with Kanji-san

On my first day in the New Material Team, Kanji-san took me with him to Akechi Ceramics factory. On the way we made many stops and detours and the trip to the factory turned into a discovery of the region!

Focus TYK : Meet Polina

Discover Polina and her family, a young Russian working at TYK that I met a fortnight before the end of my stay in Tajimi.

Kyoto Overview (last day in TYK)

For my last day of work, Thursday, March 31, TYK organized for me a day trip in Kyoto! Visiting several temples to go enjoy the cherry blossoms, eating in a high Japanese cuisine restaurant and watching a dance performance by Geishas are on the program! Followed by a meal to celebrate my departure with the leaders of TYK in Tajimi the evening! Excited I join Kaku-san whom accompanying me during this busy day!

Spring arrival in Tajimi

March ended a few days ago and with it my work at TYK. This second month in Tajimi was an opportunity to see nature evolve with the arrival of spring and spend a second month TYK more pleasant than the first.

Kyoto Snapshots

From April 1 to 8, I visited Kyoto. Some pictures to show you a first glimpse of the city.

Takayama matsuri

After TYK, I went back to Takayama to see the famous Takayama Matsuri dedicated to the celebration of spring and good harvests. From 14 to 15 April, on the occasion of the Sannô festival, each Takayama district presents a decorated float or Yatai which parades in a long procession around the Hie-Jinja sanctuary.

The best of Kyoto

After Takayama Matsuri I headed back to Kyoto and its amazing atmosphere (but full of tourists) for another week to explore the city. I made a photographic selection of the places and things that have struck me most during this week full of wonder.

Passage to Osaka and Nara

From April 8 to 11, 2016, I spent a few days in Osaka and Nara. After my week-long intensive visits to Kyoto, having a delay in my articles and a certain fatigue combined with painful neck pain, I finally spent a lot of time at the hostel in Osaka where I had booked four nights. My visits to Osaka and Nara were therefore rather short.

The mystical atmosphere of Koya-san

After Osaka and Nara I spent a weekend on Mount Koya-san. It is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important sect introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (or Kukai), one of Japan’s most famous priests.

Taking part in TYK Hanami

Back to Tajimi to take part in the TYK hanami. I find the team that I left a few weeks ago for a last evening with everyone. It gives me pleasure to spend time with my “colleagues” again.

Wwoofing at Goka farm

After TYK Hanami, I spent next ten days doing wwoofing in Goka Farm, a Japanese family living in a remote mountain valley not far from Mt Fuji. They decided to live in self-sufficiency, trying to depend as little as possible on the government and respecting nature. An experience full of discoveries.

Last days in Japan

After 10 days in the heart of nature, the return to civilization is a shock to me. It’s almost too noisy and lively. But my stay in Japan is coming to an end. I have barely a week left before leaving the land of the rising sun. So I enjoy wandering around and going to the Ghibli Museum.

Galleries

The art of Kimono

I walk in Kyoto, my eyes dazzled by the explosions of colors and various patterns wandering before me. The Kimonos are out. Geishas, tourists or locals in kimonos attract all gazes. Uchiki, Obi, Zôri, Tabi, umbrella and mobile phone. Mix of tradition and modernity. Ancestral practice originating in China, the wearing of kimono is highly codified and its use today has greatly decreased.

I walk in Kyoto, my eyes dazzled by the explosions of colors and various patterns wandering before me. The Kimonos are out. Uchiki, Obi, Zôri, Tabi, umbrella and mobile phone. Mix of tradition and modernity. Ancestral practice originating in China, the wearing of kimono is highly codified and its use today has greatly decreased.

Six months in Japan

Familiarity and strangeness. Technology and traditions. Misunderstanding and wonder. Japan is a country of contrasts. A mad country, extraordinary, annoying, amazing. During my travel, I had a little trouble adapting to the strange feeling that accompanied me constantly. The strange impression of walking on a wire. This mixture of familiarity and difference attracted me and pushed me away. The mixture of American-European culture and Japanese ancestral traditions, absolute kindness and coldness, beauty and ugliness was destabilizing. But that is what made my journey so interesting. And I have only one desire now: to go back to Japan to immerse myself in its culture.

Familiarity and strangeness. Technology and traditions. Misunderstanding and wonder. Japan is a country of contrasts. The mixture of American-European culture and Japanese ancestral traditions, absolute kindness and coldness, beauty and ugliness was destabilizing during my travel. But that is what made my journey so interesting.

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Carnets et créations orientés nature et voyage

par Claire Blumenfeld

CHAPITRES

VIDÉOS     |     PHOTOGRAPHIES

À propos

Claire Blumenfeld. La trentaine. Passionnée de nature, voyages et découvertes. J’observe le monde, la vie autour. Je cherche des réponses sur moi-même. Entre carnets, photos, vidéos et notes, voici les chapitres de ma vie. Le récit de mes errances.

À propos

Claire Blumenfeld. La trentaine. Passionnée de nature, voyages et découvertes. J’observe le monde, la vie autour. Je cherche des réponses sur moi-même. Entre carnets, photos, vidéos et notes, voici les chapitres de ma vie. Le récit de mes errances.

Stories and creations about nature and travel

by Claire Blumenfeld

CHAPTERS

VIDEOS     |     PHOTOGRAPHS

About

Claire Blumenfeld. Thirty years old. Passionate about nature, travel and discovery. I observe reality, seeking answers about the world and myself. Between dispatches, photos, videos and notes, here are the chapters of my life. The story of my wanderings.

About

Claire Blumenfeld. Thirty years old. Passionate about nature, travel and discovery. I observe reality, seeking answers about the world and myself. Between dispatches, photos, videos and notes, here are the chapters of my life. The story of my wanderings.