We took a short motorcycle trip to Sakurayama Koen in Onishi to see the fall colors and winter-blooming cherry blossoms (fuyuzakura). The blossoms were still a bit early while the colors were already on the way out, but I still enjoyed it and I think got a few nice pictures!
Another year, another wine festival… This annual event is going into its 6th year for me! I still remember my first time, but every time after that has been unique! This year we were super prepared for everything. I packed a lot of food, and we had tarps and clips and anything we could think of to bring with us. And the weather was nice so it was a good day!
It is the 130th anniversary of the Takasaki line, which is pretty amazing! This seal is on all the Takasaki trains, and there have been intermittent celebrations and events throughout this year on the line.
People sitting near us were friends with a guy who runs a sushi restaurant, and he brought lots of fish. We gained their gratitude by sharing some of our food, so when the guy came we got some yummy sushi back!
It was a good year.
Higashi JHS’s annual music festival happened at the end of October after several months of practice and planning. It wasn’t anything new, but the third graders did do a fun dance, and a high school taiko group came to play, so there was enough to keep it mostly interesting!
Students waiting to go inside
The weekend after Myogi we went to Tokyo on the 19th to see a Koto Concert. I’ve been taking koto (Japanese 13-stringed harp) lessons for about 2 years, and this is the first time I’ve been able to go see my koto teacher perform. She performed one song at a Miyashita Shin concert, a famous koto player who has written a lot of songs (some that I’ve even learned before, though I didn’t know it). I got to meet him briefly. There was a slight mix-up with seats, and they didn’t have enough, but luckily we were able to sit in time to watch my teacher perform. It was a good learning experience, and nice to see what professional koto players look like! I’ve definitely changed my technique a little after watching them!
Starting off with the Nikon store in Shinjuku
The second weekend in October we took a short afternoon motorcycle trip to see the cosmos flowers around Mt. Myogi, and on the way stopped at a famous shrine called Nukisaki Jinja. It was a short and sweet trip!
Nukisaki Jinja is a bit unique in that you take stairs DOWN to the shrine instead of UP.
A craft beer festival in Saitama was held at the Super Arena for a week, and we decided one afternoon to go check it out. Although we’ve tried a few craft beers here and there in Japan, usually they are only available in small areas around each brewery. So we were really excited to find some.
On the train heading toward Saitama-Shintoshin station
One of my favorite beers, Coedo, from Kawagoe. They sell two types at a grocery store somewhat near us, but it is still always a treat. And they don’t sell my favorite kind, so it was nice to get it here!
So that was fun. Might have to make that an annual thing!
area: kita-ibaraki, area: oarai, calligraphy, city: mito, flower: cosmos, food: kenchin soup, food: konnyaku, garden: kairakuen, kairakuen, onsen, season: fall, shrine: oarai jinja, shrine: tokiwa jinja, waterfall: fukuroda-taki
After the funeral, Kenji’s parents came a few days to stay with us in Gunma, and we invited them along on our Ibaraki trip the second 3 day weekend in September. Sunday, the first day, saw us driving to Mito, checking in to the hotel, then visiting the station to grab a bite to eat. Kenji’s father wasn’t feeling well so we dropped him back off at his hotel to rest, while Kenji and I plus his mom went to the famous Kairakuen Gardens.
Kairakuen is one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and Korakuen in Okayama, both of which I visited this year. Timing-wise, there wasn’t many special flowers blooming, and it was too early for fall colors, but we did catch the nice Cosmos flowers in bloom, so that was something.
After that we picked Kenji’s father up, then headed to the coast to Oarai to visit a shrine, eat dinner, and go to an onsen, before calling it a night.
Mito station and lunch
Day two was driving north to Kita-Ibaraki where a famous waterfall called Fukuroda, which is famous for freezing solid in winter. We had lunch in that area, then drove again to the coast to visit Rokkakudo, a famous pavilion on the edge of the water, but unfortunately it was closed so we just took a few pictures and headed back onto the highway.
Walking to Fukuroda Falls
So that was Ibaraki, and now I am all caught up on posts!
Combining a few posts into one…
In the last few days of August, I started at my new school Higashi. It is actually my second time to teach there, the first time being the school year of 2009-2010. The students, and some of the teachers, are new, but the layout and other things are the same, so it is a bit different than I’m used to. Anyway, I had a short speech in front of the school the first day, then after a few days of testing, went straight into my introductory lessons.
The next school event is the Fujioka-Tano English Oratorical Contest, a major event for every JHS ALT in the city. My kids didn’t do great this year, but they worked really hard and I was really proud of them! Also, I knew kids from 3 different schools, so it was nice to see old faces.
A third grader from Higashi
Lastly, a few days after the speech contest, Kenji and I took a short trip out to nearby Kamikawa to take pictures of the Higanbana that line the roadway. These bright flowers herald the oncoming cooler weather of fall.
Out by the roadside
And a quick picture coming home from my koto class… so happy fall is coming!
On December 1st we made a trip to Joumine Kouen, a park on the Saitama side of the border, known for its winter-blooming cherry blossoms, called “fuyuzakura”. While the entire area is known for these cherry blossoms, the Gunma park Sakurayama Kouen is the more well known of the two. We had never been to Joumine, and despite the weather being a bit cloudy, decided to check it out. It was WELL worth the extra drive, and is a great compliment to Sakurayama! But before that, we also explored a few other places on the way, as well as on the way back!
First up was the drive on the Saitama side of the river towards the park. I drive it every day to and from work, so I pointed out a few nice spots to stop and take pictures at.
Next up we caught sight of a stand of maples with AMAZING colors, so of course we had to stop there as well!
The trees had all the colors… green to orange to red. They were so beautiful!
Finally, we headed to the park… just in time for the sun to hide behind the clouds. Oops! It came out for a bit, just in time for us to get some fun pictures, before going behind the mountains. The sun sets so early these days!
Lastly, as we were driving home, we came across another magnificent set of trees… unfortunately we lost the light, so you can’t tell how great they were! Too bad…
The Annual Coco Winery Harvest Festival was held on November 17th and 18th this year. The 17th was rainy, so we decided to go on Sunday, and were able to meet up with our friend (and now my co-worker!) Suzuki-san. We went, drank, were merry, then headed home. It was windy and chilly, but the sun was nice and it wasn’t raining, so all in all a HUGE improvement from last year! I always look forward to this event, with reason. Let’s hope the weather is even better next time!
We saw Kyoko-sensei and Meg in the morning!