Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cherry Blossom season again

Today was a gorgeous spring day and the cherry blossoms are out so the local park was completely packed with people.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Canoeing on Biwako

After climbing Akasakayama we stayed at a small family  pension next at the north end of Lake Biwa. The owners organise canoe trips on the lake in the summer and snow shoe tours in the winter. When we booked online through Rakuten it appeared that the canoe trip was included in the price. I could not understand how they could manage this. It seemed too good to be true; and it was. The canoe hire was extra and not particularly cheap. But when we booked the pension we had no particular intention of going canoeing, and we booked at the last minute in probably the busiest season of the year in Japan. In the end we had a great time, so it worked out extremely well.

The pension "Rudder" was a log cabin at the back of a boat yard with just 4 rooms.

The owner said that they had only had one boat turn over in 11 years but even so I left my dSLR in the car we went canoeing and took a point-and-shoot instead. I only took a few photos on the lake and after using the dSLR they seem a bit noisy.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Climbing Akasakayama near lake Biwa

At the end of the Golden Week holiday we spent a night near the top of Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture, the largest lake in Japan. The weather was like a perfect summer, warm but without the humidity and mosquitos which blight the summer in Japan.

Akasakayama is an 800m mountain close to Biwako in an area popular for skiing in the winter.Even thought the campsite at the bottom of the trail was crowded very few people were actually climbing up the steep path. It is only 3.7km from the car park to the top but there is 600m of climbing so it is fairly steep. The initial parts have steps as shown in the picture. Further up the path follows a small stream.

I miss climbing in England where the hills rarely have trees so you have a good view as you climb. Most Japanese mountains are covered in trees so you only occasionaly get glimpses of the view from the mountain. Such as this back towards the lake with the campsite just visible at the bottom of the picture.

The other thing in Japan is that it seems impossible to escape from transmission towers. Almost every hill seems to have a line of them marching across it.

Finally the summit;
Then back down to have a hot bath in the Onsen at the bottom.

100m Kite

At the start of the Golden Week holiday we went to the Heijo palace site in Nara  where they are holding festivities to celebrate the 1300 year aniversary of Nara. There was a kite flying competition and one of the kites was this 100m long kite with lots of small kites spaced about 1m apart along the line.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge

The day after visiting Ako we headed back towards Kobe, staying at the Kobe end of the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (明石海峡大橋) which joins Kobe to Awajishima and which, according to Wkipedia, is the world's longest suspension bridge. The following day we took the ferry over to Awajisima and spent the day in a large park there.

In the morning the weather was rather grey and most of the photos I took of the bridge were grey on grey and rather boring. On the way back we took the ferry again, so that we could stop in Akashi for some of the famous local takoyaki, and the weather had brightened up so I had a second chance of photographing the bridge. The one I liked best seems to work well in black and white. The small boat in the forground adds a nice detail and was lucky timing since the photo was taken from the ferry so there was no possiblity of waiting for a suitable shot.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sunset in Ako

We stayed in a ryokan in Ako which was right on the coast. Before dinner we went down to the sea and while the boys played in the rockpools I took some pictures of the sunset.

Ako salt farm

During the spring break we had a long weekend in Hyogo, starting off in Ako. At the Ako Seaside park they have a reconstruction of an old salt farm, where salt was extracted from seawater. Ako used to be famous for salt as well as being home to the 47 ronin.

The picture above is of construction used to concentrate seawater. The water is pumped up to the top and sprayed onto the twigs. As it filters down, some of the water evaporates. Visitors can "make" their own salt by boiling the brine until all the water evaporates.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Reinstalling Windows 7

I have finally finished setting up the PC again after installing Windows 7. I had been using the pre-release version for some time but when that expired I could not face going back to XP so bought the Windows 7 upgrade. The re-install was fairly painless but it has taken me some time to set up all the applications again. Lightroom was one of the last to get set up. I was expecting it to be a pain to re-create all the settings and install the plugins but in fact I found that just copying the contents of the Application Data folder from the previous installation kept all of the settings and plugins so it actually only took a few minutes.

 The combination of rainy weekends, updating the PC and being generally busy has meant that I have not got around to updating the blog for some time. Now that spring is here and the weather is improving hopefully I will be getting out a bit more with the camera so will have something to post.

Plum Blossoms

Spring time in Japan means cherry blossoms. But before the cheery trees turn pink the plum trees come in to flower and last month we went off to Tsukigase, north east of Nara, to the plum festival. It was one of the first fine days of spring and the area was crowded with people out to see the plum blossoms.

Stalls in the along the path were selling locally produced pickles and, since this was a plum festival, umeboshi - the salty picked plums. There was even plum flavoured ice-cream.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Keihanna Memorial Park

It was a nice winters day today and we went to Keihanna park where they were having a free concert by some Taiko drummers. The concert was in the building above - a strange construction hidden by a a large amount of girders. Below is another view.

After harvesting the rice in Japan, the straw is often tied up in conical stands, I assume to dry. I have been meaning to photograph some of these but have not got around to it before. They had a few in the park for reasons not entirely clear.