grass amongst mangroves at the beach
Australia, blogging, Photography

Friendly Friday Challenge- Splendour in the Grass

So often we walk around in nature failing to notice the details, the grass under our feet.

Subtle changes in colour and appearance indicate the passing of the seasons. Many varieties of grass remain invisible, yet are an integral part of the natural landscape.

Senga Grass at Mt Hakone

The theme for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge is:

‘Splendour in the Grass’

grass in close up Australia

Using Grass to Frame a Landscape in Photography

In photographic terms, grass can be used to frame the shot or make an interesting feature in the foreground.

This ‘Moon viewing,’ photo captured during the Tsukimi festival in mid-Autumn, in Japan.

Japanese Senga Grass Fields at Mount Fuji

The Japanese find Splendour in the Sengakuhara Pampas Grass, by strolling along a walking trail, at the western side of Mount Hakone. For it is here that the changing colour of the tall grass offers stunning vistas. In November, the grass turns a shimmering, silvery gold. Wedding proposal and selfies abound at this time of year.

Australian Splendour

In Australia, a country fringed by blue oceans, you will find grass the colour of sunburnt earth, which often makes me yearn for the vivid fluorescent green grass of wetter climates.

Birch
Birch Trees and Grass in Helsinki – so green

Australian deserts display different kinds of saltbush grass.

Australian Desert grasses and Saltbush

In the arid conditions of the Australian landscape, plants have adapted to grow under extreme conditions, such as the grass tree.

Grass Trees in Australia

Grass Trees in their natural habitat

A relic of the Age of Dinosaurs, Xanthorrhoeas, also known as the Grass Tree, grow very slowly and are resistant to bushfire. In fact, fire helps the grass tree produce its flowers. They also have a unique symbiotic relationship with the soil. The presence of a mycorrhizal microbe in the soil around their roots allows them to flourish, even if the soils are nutrient-poor.

Grass Trees in the Garden

Grass Trees are highly sought after in Australian horticulture and as such are often illegally removed from their natural locations. They fetch high prices as ornamental plants. Little do the owners realize that if the soil in their garden does not contain the mycorrhizal enzyme, the grass tree that they paid so dearly for, will wither and die.

Imitating Nature in Growing Grass Trees

Here’s a secret that an old-timer once told me. Take a cup of brown sugar, put it in a bucket of water and water your grass trees once a month for two years with that mixture. The sugar feeds the mycorrhiza and gets it going and your grass tree will survive.

www.abc.net.au/gardening

Create a Friendly Friday Challenge Blog Post

Everyone is welcome to join the Friendly Friday Challenge with your own interpretation of the theme.

Add a pingback to StPA and tag your post with ‘Friendly Friday – Splendour in the Grass.’ Then return to this post and leave a comment below listing your post’s published link.

There is a full set of instructions on how to join the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge on my blog header. This challenge runs until next Thursday.

Last week’s Friendly Friday Challenge initiated some excellent contributions, with the theme of ‘Markets,‘ over at co-host Sandy’s blog.

Would you like to join in this week?

Friendly Friday
blogging, Travel

Friendly Friday Challenge – Market

It is quite ironic that my Friendly Friday Challenge Co-host, Sandy, should give us the prompt, Market this week as I was just looking through my photos of the wonderful Market Hall, in Helsinki, Finland.

Finnish Markets

Where the Hungarians are spoilt for choice in varieties of Paprika in their markets, Helsinki is spoilt for choice in terms of Salmon.

Me, being Australian, have only really known three varieties of Smoked Salmon – Tasmanian, Norwegian and Danish Smoked Salmon.

My eyes opened as wide as saucers when I saw the contents of the cabinets in the Helsinki Markets, the day I arrived in the Finnish capital.

I remember it is not just ordinary salmon, because the thing that struck me about Finns, was that they had taken Salmon to a whole new level, like as in Heinz 52 different varieties.

Now I love Salmon, so I was pretty happy with this, until I realized how hard it would be be to choose which one to buy! I needed help to choose between Tsar’s salmon, Cold Smoked Salmon, Flamed Salmon, Lemon Salmon and Rose Pepper Salmon, etc. and in the end, feeling rather befuddled, I settled on Cured Salmon with Basilic. With a large helping of Salmon Soup? How could I resist?

salmon soup in helsinki
in helsinki

You need to know that the people of Helsinki eat a good deal of fish, freshwater fish, that is. Even sometimes three times in a day. So when I think of Helsinki, I think of Salmon, and lots of it.”

StPA – forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/helsinki-travel/

Polish Markets

In Poland, you may not see as much Salmon, but you will see a delicous form of smoked Sheep’s Cheese and lots of traditional style products for sale in Zakopane in the Tathra Mountains.

Zakopane

Japanese Markets

In Japan, the markets were absolutely full of many varieties of seafood. For the Japanese, seafood is a staple. It is a shame my travelling partner dislikes fish!

Australian Markets

Meanwhile back home in Australia, the sun is shining, (as always) and the markets continue with a Covid safe plan for the moment. For how much longer, we are unsure.

Redcliffe Esplanade
Pre Covid photo of Redcliffe Markets
Friendly Friday
Cakes, Travel

Michelin Meal in Japan II

Michelin Star Restaurants

Most of us are familiar with ‘Michelin stars – the rating system for high-class restaurants the world over. Those highly sought after Michelin stars are indicative of excellence in consistency, presentation of food and mastery of technique.

What would you do if you were presented with a Michelin meal you couldn’t eat? Read the first part of a Michelin Meal in Japan.

Eleven Course Meal

My stay at a traditional Ryokan, or ‘Old World’ Inn, complete with Tatami mats and sliding paper walls in Kyoto, Japan, included an evening meal, which was served to us in our very own private dining room that comprised part of the sleeping quarters. A fantastic arrangement! Yes, well not necessarily.

japan

It meant not eating the meal was never going to be an option, as we couldn’t leave the restaurant and go home. This was in our home, albeit our room, even if it was only for a short time.

Unfortunately, my daughter a.k.a. Miss Teen now ‘Adult,’ refused to eat any of Michelin Courses #1,#2 and #3 out of 11 courses. And this entire menu was all about seafood.

From Crab to Squid, Sea Urchin to Tilefish, (whatever that is), the menu lurched from one sea creature to another form of oceanic life. [With one token course that constituted a beef dish].

Me? I love seafood of all kinds. If it came from the sea, and is edible, I will eat it.

Miss Teen now an ‘Adult,’ on the other hand, would have none of it. She cannot eat seafood, or rather will not eat seafood. There was no forewarning of the menu contents, when we booked in at this Ryokan, so this was all a complete surprise.

On reading the menu, Daughter dear declared,

“Oh! I will just eat the rice!”

I dutifully opted for eating her untouched courses #1-3, but on re-examining the menu, I quickly realized I couldn’t possibly consume each and every part of the full eleven courses, for both of us.

I had to think. Which of the following options could I take for the rest of the meal?

  1. Send her meal portions back uneaten
  2. Tell the staff my teen is ill and can’t eat it
  3. Apologise profusely and possibly insult the chef
  4. Leave the Ryokan for other accommodation

None of those options sounded palatable, (no pun intended), and there were so many courses! To insult the chef would be rude, culturally insensitive and ungrateful. I also had to bear in mind, the Chef was to serve the rest of MY meal, which I was looking forward to eating.

What was I to do?

Michelin Food Disposal

I looked at the small bin provided in our room.

It would only handle paper and dry contents. I could not leave uneaten seafood portions there.

We were to catch an airport taxi and a 10-hour flight home to Australia the next day, so hiding it in my luggage would result in me smelling like a fish tank! Not the sweetest perfume de toilet!

I devised a plan. After the gentile kimono-clad room attendant/waitress, served up the next culinary marine delight and had left the room, I found a zip lock bag in my luggage.

It was similar to the ones they give you at the airport for storing toiletries, but that was all I had. Surreptitiously, I emptied the uneaten portions of daughter’s courses, within. It wasn’t easy. Those bags are meant for lip gloss and small hand creams. Not five courses from a traditional Japanese degustation style menu!

My subterfuge was very nearly discovered when the Japanese waiter returned, shortly after serving through the seventh course. Thank goodness she knocked on the door first. I would have had to fez up to ditching the food and how would that have looked?

Japanese Rice

Meanwhile Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult’ was by now, really hungry and looking forward to eating the course of rice. She suggested she might eat both our serves, as she was hungry. “Of course you can,” I reassured her.

Just before the rice was served, we were to be served tea. Green tea. At the mere mention of Green tea by the waiter, Miss Teen Now an Adult, shook her head vigorously to indicate ‘no,’ and eagerly awaited her bowl of rice.

The course of rice was then served – but to her dismay, one bowl not two, arrived, and was served to me only!

Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult,’ was completely forlorn. First all these serves of seafood and now no rice! The poor room attendant clearly had not understood. As soon as our door was closed again, I pushed the rice bowl towards her explaining I had more than enough to eat with all the sea urchins etc. and that she should have the rice.

If the truth be told, I’d have liked to try the rice as the Japanese are very particular about its quality. They do not like imported rice, and prefer the home-grown variety. Miss Teen Now an Adult, inhaled the whole bowl, before I had the chance to request even a small tasting portion. But that is okay.

Soup and Dessert

Strangely, a small bowl of miso soup course followed the rice – perhaps it aids digestion, or could it be that they think a person has consumed too much seafood, at that point? Remember there was now two bowls for me to drink, not one!

The Dessert course consisted of a Persimmon, times two, of course. I’d never eaten a persimmon before, so that was a novel experience and I confess to being quite partial to the sweet, delicate taste. I couldn’t get through the second one, so it also went into the baggie.

There was still my shady skulduggery of hiding food to address: about 5 courses of seafood and a half a persimmon sat in a zip lock baggie inside my handbag. It was 10 pm at night, I was in a Ryokan, in Japan and there was no rubbish bin in sight.

It was time to go out for a little walk.

Gion Bin Hunt and Geishas

Now in most countries, unless a G7 or Olympics were being held, it would not be too difficult to find a rubbish bin on the street, where I could discretely dispose of all aforementioned Michelin Chef scraps.

But this was Japan.

In Japan, each citizen is responsible for their own rubbish. Japanese people take home their used plastic drink bottles and empty food wrappers for recycling or dispose of them, to landfill. You must either pay for rubbish collections from your premises, or take it to the landfill, yourself. Thus, there are very few if any, public trash bins on the streets, in Japan.

It looked like we were in a long walk.

We walked the Gion with not a single bin, in sight. We passed several 7/11 stores along the way – no bins there either.

Around 10.30 pm we saw her.

A Geisha Girl in full attire.

Japanese Geishas

The genuine Geishas are notoriously secretive and seeing a working Geisha in real life, really did make the whole rubbish disposal expedition, totally worthwhile.

In my excitement of seeing her, I fumbled for my camera, its carry cord becoming tangled up in the zip of my handbag, where said seafood was hiding. For a minute, I was completely distracted by the thought of a full-to-bursting ‘zip lock bag,’ spilling its unwanted Michelin meal contents inside my handbag, which would no doubt lead to me smelling like a tile-fish or sea urchin, for the next 24 hours! Meanwhile the Geisha was getting further away Ah!

An American tourist shouted at me to ‘run’ after the geisha, in order to get the prized photo. You can see him in the foreground. The Geisha, by then, had got some distance away. It was amazing how fast she moved in those traditional wooden shoes and maintained her poise. I got the photo. It is grainy, but one grainy photo is better than none.

You are told not to stop or ask Geishas to pose for photographs as they are considered highly skilled working ladies, who entertain guests through performing the ancient traditions of art, dance and singing and are handsomely paid for their time. And she did seem to be in a dreadful hurry.

Suddenly the fact that we had to walk further to find a bin, didn’t bother us as much. We eventually found one at the large Yasaka-jinja Shrine at the Gion. And we could both sleep easier for the rest of the night.

Miss Teen Now an ‘Adult,’ was really keen for breakfast, the next morning, but understandably so, don’t you think?

I gave her all my serving.

Travel

Michelin Meals in Japan

Most of us have heard of Michelin stars. That system of rating restaurants according to the results of reviews on consistency and presentation of food, quality and mastery of technique.

But Michelin stars can be a fickle thing. They come and go, as a famous French restaurant, formerly run by Paul Bocuse, found out recently when they were downgraded to two stars by Michelin, after holding the rating without interuption since 1965. Even celebrity chef Marc Veyrat, recently sued the Michelin guide over a lost third Michelin star.

To me, it is mostly irrelevant and might mean an expensive price tag. I wouldn’t refer to Michelin stars, or lack thereof when choosing a location to eat.

So imagine my surprise at the following events:-

Miss Teen, almost Adult, and I were on our final night of a 2 week trip to Japan. We had arranged to stay in a cozy and very traditional Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), in the Kyoto district before flying back to Australia.

In case you have not heard the term before, staying at a Ryokan means sleeping in traditional accommodation, on Tatami mats on the floor, bathing in a traditional Japanese tub and eating traditional Japanese food.

Dining room at a Ryokan in Kyoto

Staying at a Japanese Traditional Inn – Ryokan in Narita – 2008

Back in 2008, I stayed at an amazing Ryokan in Narita, which had been a former Shogun’s palace some 400 years before. Our accommodation included three emormous rooms plus a small toilet. The dining area was replete with Japanese style recessed dining table with comfy floor cushion and the sitting area overlooked a Carp fish pond and Japanese style garden courtyard set amongst topiary trees and bonsai. Idyllic. It was magical.

Japanese gardens

But no Michelin rated food was served at that ryokan. You see I’d ordered a Western Style breakfast which consisted of a lettuce leaf, (Japanese seem to be obsessed with the lettuce), a mandarin segment or two and a piece of onion. It was rather strange, but we dutifully ate it anyway, well one of the kids gnawed on the 1 slice of white bread that accompanied the salad breakfast of sorts, and the other reported that she wasn’t hungry… But it was still a great experience.

Japanese Ryokan – Kyoto

For this Japanese vacation, I wanted our last night in Japan to be rather special, so we booked a night at a traditional Ryokan, in Kyoto.

The location and decor really lived up to expectations. Shoes off and stored at the door, was a must. Upon check-in, there were lengthy instructions about how our night would go from the gentlemen dressed in a Yukata – a specific kimono worn in Ryokan, even when and, if, I should wear the Yukata.

I had, at this point, completely forgotten the accommodation booking included dinner.

Dinner will be served at 8pm,” I was then informed.

“Where shall I go for dinner?” I tentatively asked.

“That will be explained,” the Yukata, clad attendant, stoicly advised.

It wasn’t explained, at all.

The room at the Kyoto Ryokan

After showing us to our room, we decided to wait until 8pm and see what transpired. There seemed to be so many rules that I didn’t want to ask again! At precisely 8pm, there was a soft knock at the door.

Our meal was served in our room by a gorgeous Japanese lady, dressed Geisha-style, at the Japanese style dining table provided.

japan
No recesses for your legs at this dining table

Let me tell you sitting cross legged at a low dining table was less challenging for my knees, in 2008, than it was for the now age 50+ knees!

The presentation of the meal was glamorous. I was very impressed. This was our first course, and I was excited to taste it.

I didn’t know what it was and tasted it anyway. Miss Teen Now Adult simply played with the food. The second course was a delight for me, but the daughter was again unimpressed.

Again it was largely seafood. Prawn and Sea cucumber et.al.

Miss Teen Now Adult does not eat seafood – at all.

Incredible presentation

I had only given the menu a cursory glance, as it was delivered with the first course and I was simply too much in awe of the presentation, to read much of what was written there.

Dutifully, I ate Miss Teen Now Adult’s portion, as well as mine, for both the first, second course and the third courses. I wanted to show my appreciation for the care taken with the meal.

After the third course, I was tad concerned about what was to come and thus checked the menu again to see six of the 10 courses contained seafood. I suddenly realized I couldn’t eat all her serves, as well as mine. But I also didn’t want to be rude and refuse the food either.

With a rising sense of horror, I then read the information compendium in the room, wherein it mentioned that Chef Harada, was a celebrated Michelin 1 Star chef. Eeek!

Miss Teen Now Adult was refusing to eat a Michelin star meal!

So what did I do, then? I shall have to tell you that another time.

I can say though, that Miss Teen Now Adult, was happy with the breakfast served the following morning, and hungrily gobbled it all.

Even the lettuce!

Thank goodness breakfast was something for Miss Teen Now Adult to Ponder More About.

More Japanese food stories at Cook, Eat, Repeat, by Acacophonouslife.life
Australia, Community, History & Traditions

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Denmark

Almost every tourist to Copenhagen will visit the Tivoli Gardens, but if you want to experience an authentic Danish Christmas, you have to be around on December 24, as that is when the Danes and many Scandinavians, and indeed Europeans, celebrate Christmas. Danes might stay at home making and preparing marzipan Christmas sweets, and in the evening, celebrate Christmas with a hearty meal with family or friends, before dancing around the Christmas tree singing carols, (in danish of course), and finish the night playing Christmas games. It is all about creating Christmas Hygge!

Norway

The focus in Norway at Christmas, or Jul, is on food and lots of it. From the Rice porridge, or Rommegrot to seven types of Christmas biscuits or cookies, the Norwegian are into it. Trolls, Nisse and all.

Germany and Europe

Over in Deutscheland, and many parts of Europe, you might attend a Christmas market. It is almost compulsory and who wouldn’t want to, when there is delicous Christmas food, a festive atmosphere and Gluhwein in the offering.

europe2011secondbatch088

Switzerland

The Swiss have long trumpet like horns that are played in the streets at Christmas time. In Lucerne, they also have enormous cow bells which are held in front of them and are rung, in a rhythmic march, whilst parading down the city streets. A very special Swiss Christmas.

Austria

Over in Austria, you might meet fairy tale characters in the streets of the Old Towns, such as these in Innsbruck.

However, the vibe is a little different in Austria and southern European areas like Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or Austria, who have the tradition of the Krampus. Based on old Germanic folklore, Austrians, (not to be confused with Australians, who have the kangaroos), start celebrating Christmas on Krampusnacht,December 5. That is when Santa’s evil twin, the “Krampus”, a devil like figure with horns, roams the streets with his evil accomplice, brandishing a whip and stick to threaten naughty children who’ve misbehaved throughout the year. 

Austrian Christmas - Krampus
The Krampus

Traditionally, young men dress up with the hairy ‘Krampus’ masks and walk the streets creating havoc, hitting people with sticks. That’s Austria. Luckily, when I met the Krampus, he was in a good mood and without his heinous accomplice!

Australia

Australia, the ones with the kangaroos and Crocodiles, (not Austria), has its own version of fun in the sun at Christmas time, because it is anything but cool, “down under.” Christmas Day, December 25 is often celebrated at teh beach.

Every shopping centres hosts Santa, where he sits posed on his gold throne, surrounded by fake snow, with children atop his knee, listening intently to wishes for Christmas. It is highly confusing for the smarter kids, as they can’t work out how Santa is able to be at every shopping centre at the same time!

Christmas gift
Christmas

Often there is the opportunity for official Santa photos, and now it is popular for beloved pets get involved too. The Schnauzer seemed to enjoy the experience this year.

New Zealand

Down in New Zealand, you will most likely have a Christmas tree (usually an artificial one), or more than one, if you are as passionate about Christmas as this kiwi.

xmasCollages5
New Zealand Christmas

This Lady of the above house in Wellington loves decorating, makes all her own decorations and has no less than 15 trees in her house. It is always tastefully done, albeit a tad obsessive, but in the nicest possible way! Dianne collects a gold coin donation from visitors and the money raised is donated to charity, so there is method in her madness.

Image

Some of her trees were really creative. She had even created seasonal trees – in tones of Spring, Summer Autumn and well, winter of course.

Sweden

At the opposite ends of the world, in the far north of Sweden, you might be building a snowman or sliding down a snowy slope on a mattress at Christmastime. Or digging out your car, if the snow is heavy!

sweden
Skellefteå

Japan

In Eastern parts of the world such as Japan, you might not really celebrate Christmas at all and instead, focus on the bigger celebration of New Year. Mind you, the growing tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on December 25, is oddly popular, for some reason. I would most likely starve if I spent Christmas day there.

You may even be someone who dislikes the hype around Christmas and prefer not to celebrate and that is okay too. Wherever you are and how ever you choose to see Christmastime, may you find Joy in your day and peace in your heart.

God jul

Griss Godt

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Nollaig Shona

Wesołych Świąt

Manuia le Kirisimasi

メリークリスマス

Glædelig jul

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas

from Amanda at Something to Ponder About

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Danmark, Travel

Travel Tips and Reviews

Travel Reviews and Tips for Travelling

Are you travelling to any of the following destinations:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

If so take a look at my Travel Tips Page

You can also find other useful information such as:

Packing tips for Travel

Scandinavian – Books for those who wish to travel via words

Marienlyst
Amanda in Denmark

Come back again – I am adding more reviews all the time

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Community, Photography, Travel

Takeshita Day Trip

Living in the wide open spaces of Australia, taking a “day trip” is something so commonplace, it is almost obligatory, but rather than showcase my own backyard, I have chosen a recent day trip in Japan, for this week’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Day trip.

Making our way to Yoyogi Park via the highly efficient Tokyo Subway system, we orientated ourselves at the entrance to Tokyo’s Harajuku station. The Station building has a rather old world feel about it, dating, I believe, from the 1930’s.

japan travel
Starting the day at Harajuku station

It is clearly a busy station, but one must remember this is Japan, a country of over 125 million people, so perhaps this was actually a quiet day.

Directly opposite the station, we found Takeshita Street!

The Mecca for youth and Japanese craziness and shopping.

Think sideshow alley on steroids with an Asian twist and you have Takeshita Street.

It is noisy, crazy and colourful. Be prepared for sensory overload.

Some of the delights to be found

In Takeshita Street, the crowds are so thick you can easily get up close and personal with the Japanese population and a whole variety of tourists.

The average Japanese citizen is around my height, so for once I felt quite comfortable and not amongst the shortest in the crowd perusing the shops. Miss Teen, now Adult, however towered over the heads of the shoppers like a Blonde German Supermodel.

What a beautiful girl from the beautiful sky,” was what one shopper regarded her as we strolled past.

Kind of made the Day Trip.

Something to Ponder About

Friendly Friday Photo challenge
Travel

Magic Puddles at Meji

Japanese garden

Tokyo’s Meji Shrine is not that far from the Gyoen’s (The National Garden in Shinjuku), Sendegaya gate, but heavy rain might hamper your ability to navigate there correctly on foot. It will be particularly difficult if you’re holding a tiny Japanese umbrella over two people, and trying to navigate using your smartphone’s apps at the same time.

You have had fair warning.

9:00 am: We had begun the day at the Gyoen National Garden, a photographer’s dream, well before any rain started.

If you want to know more about visiting that spectacular Garden, click here.

We worked out that taking a wrong turn isn’t always a bad thing, in Japan. Some of the streets are really quite interesting and surprisingly devoid of traffic. Which is really unexpected, in a city of 38 million people.

Going to the wrong way out of Meji

1pm: After the wrong turn or two, we spotted the enormous Torii gate which signals the entrance to the Meji shrine. Having advanced knowledge that the Shinto shrine is located well inside Yoyogi Park, and given it was raining heavily, we looked for temporary cover before entering in the hopes the rain would abate.

It didn’t.

Shinto shrine Torii gate Japan
The Torii Gate – or entrance, to Meji Shrine in Tokyo

Our vain attempt to shelter under the eave of the guard’s box at the entrance was met with howls of protest from the guard himself, that I interpreted as, “No standing here, – you must keep moving.”

And move we did, passing through the Torii gate and taking the long, now dismal, walk up to Meji. This is normally a pleasant ten minute stroll through Yoyogi park when the sun is shining, but can be a miserably cold trot if it is teeming with rain, and it was teeming with rain.

Despite the inclement weather, I noted that the gardeners was highly focused on the task at hand, which was commendable, but I pondered if it might have been a religious penance of sorts to continue sweeping the leaves with a primitive straw broom amidst a torrential downpour?

Just keep sweeping..

In any case, I admired his resilience and fearless immunity to discomfort, despite the heavens opening up. No down time for outdoor workers in rainy Japan, it seems. And we complain about poor working conditions here…. gulp.

history

The Meji Shrine, itself, dates from 1920 and being a Shinto shrine it is considered the resting place of the souls, but not the earthly remains, of Emperor Meiji, and his empress.

The Meji period marked the beginning of Modern Japan, transitioning as it did, from a feudal power to centralized control under the Emperor, and therefore this shrine is significant, in Japanese history.

It is also worth mentioning the surrounding Yoyogi park contains over 100,000 trees that originated from donations from throughout the whole of Japan.

tips on visiting Meji Shinto Shrine in Japan

We were later to learn that it is customary to purify your hands and face prior to entering a Shinto shrine.

What every tourist needs to know:

After washing your hands and face, be sure to let the dirty water drain outside of the stone basin and tip the blessing bucket up so that clean water runs down the handle, so that it is clean for the next person.

This is Japanese custom but also altruism and thoughtfulness.

Respect for others. I like that.

shinto shrine cleansing fountain

You do not want to pollute the clean water in the vessel…….

How to Purify Yourself at a shinto shrine

  1. Take the wodden dipper in your right hand and scoop up some water. …
  2. Wash your left hand. …
  3. Change the dipper to your left hand, and wash your right hand. …
  4. Change the dipper into your right hand again, and rinse your mouth with your left hand. …
  5. Wash the handle of the dipper by letting the water run downward …
  6. Put the dipper back on the basin, scoop side down. ( The Japanese always think of the next person)

Meji Shrine 1:30 pm:

Like the many other tourists caught in the downpour with or without umbrella, we sat for over 60 minutes, waiting again for the rain to abate, as we were sure it would. It didn’t.

We sat meditating – watching the cleaner; watching the white zig zag shaped streamers fluttering in the breeze wondering of their significance; watching the rain; watching a wedding couple posing for pictures; watching the rain; watching the other tourists sitting and waiting for the rain to stop. We were patient. We watched and meditated 🙂

The rain Gods were not happy with us.

The deluge became heavier.

Another tip: There’ s not a whole lot to do at Meji Shrine, once you have taken some happy snaps and checked out the shrine. No cafe on site, No souvenir shops. That is a good thing, I think, however not such a fortuitous thing, if you are waiting for rain to stop.

A roving street vendor would have made a killing that day.

shinto shrines

Meji Shrine 2.25 pm:

There were some beautiful blossoms to admire whilst the rain fell. I got some great pictures.

We also got up close and personal with the cleaner going about his sweeping.

I noted he had updated his broom – a modern design, this time.

Meji Japan

An hour and a half later, we decided the rain wasn’t going to stop.

Meji Shrine 2.45pm:

The rain continued. We decided to make a run for it.

It rained all the way back home to the hotel. About 3 kilometres.

Later than night, I researched the Shinto zig zag streamers that we had seen hanging at the Shrines. Their purpose was to encourage the Shinto Nature spirits to, of all things, bring a plentiful rainfall to ensure a good rice harvest. Rice needs so much rain….

No wonder it was raining at Meji. The Zig zag streamers were hanging everywhere.

At least the shinto gods were swiftly responsive. After that day, there was one thing I was sure about – there’ll be no shortage of rice this year in Japan.

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Something to Ponder About

Travel

Shuffling through Shibuya

It doesn’t take long for the uninitiated to get their head around the rather logical Japanese transport system, however it’s negotiating the myriad of entrances and exits, at the stations themselves, that can be daunting for the novice traveller.

Entering the wrong one, can leave you lost or disorientated.

Where am I

Google maps appears to work really well for getting in and out of some of the busiest stations in japan, as it gives you directions and even platforms numbers.

There are also various apps that are useful, such as MapswithMe, (can be viewed when offline) and Hyperidia, or you can go old school with a free tourist map, but remember it is essential you have 20/20 vision to read the small print and they are hard to read at night.

Shinjuku station, seen below, which is really five stations in one, has over 200 exits.

Just one of the exits from Shinjuku station

3.5 million people pass through Shinjuku station daily.

shinkjuku
Another entrance to Shinjuku station – a bit different from the above picture

Shibuya in Tokyo, is renowned for being the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, and that was where we were headed – if Google was leading us correctly. Following a sign leading up from the Shibuya station platform that indicated the Hachiko exit, we ended up in a large and busy shopping mall, so when I spotted a large window, I looked out to see just where we were:-

Exiting Shibuya station towards the crossing

It looked like we were headed the correct way – I could see the famous Shibuya Starbucks.

And here we are taking it all in, not yet game to cross. Looking this way and that.

Sometimes Japan can give the traveller sensory overload. But in the nicest way.

Everyone in Japan, is so polite and respectful.

Are you ready to cross Shibuya? Here we go….

That wasn’t so bad at all…….

And a view from the top – kind of magical really!

Do you use Google maps or some other navigation app?

Which ones have you found useful on your travels?

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Something to Ponder About

alone
Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Chair

We all use them.

Functional, practical, comfy, sometimes stylish.

Who invented the chair?

The ancient Egyptians are believed to be the first to invent a four-legged seat with a back,… The earliest examples have been found in tombs dating as far back as 2680 B.C”

The most common theories are that the chair was an outgrowth of indigenous Chinese furniture, that it evolved from a camp stool imported from Central Asia, that it was introduced to China by Nestorian missionaries in the seventh century, and that the chair came to China from India.

Here are some of my favourites.

You will find this photo challenge is alternately hosted each Friday by the bloggers:
Something to Ponder About  and The Snow Melts Somewhere

Thanks to Snow for this week’s excellent prompt for Friendly Friday. I’ll be back next week with a new prompt. Be sure to check out all this week’s participants linked in the comments section on Snow ‘s blog.

Something to Ponder About

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Architecture

As High as the Government in Tokyo

Designed by Kenzo Tange to resemble a computer chip, Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government Office Building is a set of three towering skyscrapers, in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.

Two of the towers have a panoramic Observatory on the 45th floor, or 202 metres up, and there’s a few things about them that are rather special.

As well as one of the most amazing illuminated Cityscape outlooks you’ll find, the T.M.G. Building Observatory is open to the public, every night till 9pm, and what’s more – entrance to the observatory is FREE to the public.

Now that’s something that doesn’t come along too often, does it?

The Street Level Courtyard

But back to the building. Impressive by day, the view was spectacular by night.

This is one of the views that awaits you.

From the Tower, one can see the Mode Gakuen Cocoon shaped building in the background.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government building complex occupies an entire block close to Shinjuku station. Entrance is via street level or a subterranean shopping arcade and underground walkway. There are actually two observatories, one in the North tower and one is the South tower, each with alternate openings times, so that if you visit two nights in a row, you might see two different views.

This is important to note, as it can be somewhat disorienting, if you exit via a different lift than you entered previously. Or perhaps it is only a sign of my approaching the elder years?

Uniformed Security Personnel are on hand to check bags prior to entering the lifts in the main foyer. In typical Japanese fashion, these Assistants are immaculately dressed, polite and helpful. Note that there will be a queue to enter the lifts, so factor this into your time allowance when visiting.

I would allow 45 minutes to an hour for this experience. Longer if you want to browse the gift shop or eat at the rooftop restaurant – which comes complete with faux Roman columns! The few trip advisor reviews for the restaurant I read, were mixed but they would surely have a first class view.

When you return to ground level, don’t forget to keep an eye out for an interesting clock in the foyer.

Even in the daytime, the building is quite impressive. In the foreground is a walkway across the busy street.

If you are observant of details and the resolution is not too small, you might note there is what appears to be a homeless person in the foreground. This was the only one I ever saw in the time visiting Japan. He appeared to be reading his Buddhist scriptures in the morning mist. I know that he was Buddhist, not that it is of any consequence to me what religious persuasion he was.

I realized this at a much later date, when I was informed by one of our guides that Shintoism does not have any written scriptures. In fact, anyone can invent a deity in Shinto if it is meaningful for them. They have thousands of deities.

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Something to Ponder About

Community, Photography

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge – Looking Up

Much of the time our focus is spent looking down at our smartphones, at a book or document, or even on young children? In keeping our focus downward, we often miss important details or sights above and around us.

Have a look at the following photo : –

Not one person in this photo is LOOKING UP at the splendor above them.

There is immense beauty above our heads, if we open our eyes to it.

This week on Friendly Friday I am asking you to join in and create a post sharing your interpretation of the prompt : –

LOOKING UP

Here is something I would have missed if my daughter had not LOOKED UP –

Unusual things can be found Looking Up.

Instructions for Joining In:

  • Write and publish a post, tagging the post ‘Friendly Friday’, and adding into your post, the URL link back to this Friendly Friday post.
  • Include the Friendly Friday logo, found below, in your post if you wish.
  • Copy the link to your LOOKING UP post, in the comments here, so we can find you.
  • Please note there are no deadlines for participating. New prompts each week.
  • To see participating bloggers’ version of the weekly prompt, please browse the links in the comments section. It can be quite interesting to see the other interpretations.

Find more Instructions on joining in with Friendly Friday here

Friendly Friday

Everyone is welcome to join in with the Friendly Friday Photography challenge.

The challenge is alternately hosted each Friday by the bloggers:
Something to Ponder About  and The Snow Melts Somewhere

Pingbacks – Needing help creating a link back or pingback to your post – click here

This guy who filmed that video must be glad he Looked Up, after the earthquake

Something Fun to Ponder About this Friday!

National garden Japan
Community

Friendly Friday: Photo Walk

Come and take a Friendly Friday Photo Walk with Snow from The Snow Melts Somewhere

My starting point for a walk. Overlooking Shinjuki’s Concrete jungle.

Snow and I co-host a Photo Challenge, Called Friendly Friday, alternately each Friday (Saturday for some time zones). Although I have linked the response to this week’s prompt of a photo walk, to an earlier walk I took through the Gyoen National Park in Shinjuku, Japan, this prompt from Snow was one I couldn’t resist joining in with again.

Hosts are allowed to join their own challenges, aren’t they?


Japanese know their horticulture and how to make it a work of art. The trees perfectly frame the pond and the manicured trees int eh distance. In a week or so, these trees would turn brilliant red. Oh how I would love have seen that.

A row of Japanese mountain Maple trees – more LOTR trees,

A fellow Aussie blogger liked my comparison of these trees to Lord of the Rings.

Here is some more, Chris!

trees

No problems to sit here for a while and absorb the ethereal light.

More spam of my absolute favourite Sycamore, (or Plane trees – thanks Manja)!

Proof it is a real kind of Photo Walk
Friendly Friday
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