Famous Fuji

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Mount Fuji is the highest and most famous mountain in Japan. This photo was taken when we were travelling from Osaka to Tokyo on the shinkansen bullet train. We were lucky to see it because when the weather is misty it disappears completely and you can’t see it at all! It was spring when I took this photo, so the snowy cap is melting and there’s is only snow left in the cracks and crevices. Mount Fuji is a volcano but it’s sleeping (dormant) at the moment – the last major eruption was on Dec 16th 1707. It is 3776 metres high (which is pretty tall). I am hoping to climb it next year. At the top of Mount Fuji there is a small shrine to the mountain spirit because people think Mount Fuji is a god!

Fantastic Fries

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There are lots of different types of vending machines in Japan but this one is special because it actually cooks the food for you before delivering it to you. It sells fried potatoes, chicken & chips, hot dogs, yaki-onigiri (grilled rice balls) and fried rice. We went for the French fries which took 110 seconds to cook (it tells you how long you’ll have to wait under the picture of each different food). When they arrived they were super-hot – too hot to eat! They were also very greasy and the taste was only so-so. So unless you are very hungry, they’re probably not something you’d eat twice! But anyway the vending machine was really cool!

Vine Bridge

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This is a bridge made of woven vines in Iya Dani which is a remote valley on Shikoku Island. The bridge (called kazurabashi in Japanese) is 45 metres long, 2 metres wide and 14 metres above the river. It was first made nearly 1000 years ago when soldiers of the losing clan in a battle (the Genpei War 1180-1185) ran away from the lost battle and found a safe refuge to stay in this part of Japan. But just in case their pursuers tracked them down they made a vine bridge to escape on which could be cut down to slow their pursuers down. But they never were attacked and so they didn’t need to use this special vine bridge. Nowadays the bridge has metal cords in its vine ropes to strengthen it (though it doesn’t stop it from being scary!).

Cute deer in Nara

Cute deer in Nara

I met this deer in the grounds of Kasuga Shrine, near the Nara Deer Park. This area of Nara is packed with deer. You can buy little shika senbei, which literally means deer rice cakes, and if you hold one out to a deer, if will first bow down and then take it from you! But if you don’t give it to them quickly they will try and get it by force. I saw a man who was knocked over by an energetic deer! In the ancient times if you went through this park and met a deer you had to bow down and greet them because they were supposed to be the messengers of the gods. (Luckily we don’t have to do that anymore!)

Japan’s 1995 Disaster

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This photo was taken in the Nojima Fault Preservation Museum on Awaji Island and is a reconstruction of what happened to an expressway in the city of Kobe in the 1995 Great Kansai Earthquake. On 17th January 1995, at just after 5am in the morning the earthquake struck! In total about 6434 people died in this earthquake, but thousands more would probably have died if the earthquake had been later in the day (because when this earthquake happened it was so early that the roads were almost completely empty). Due to timing and also good earthquake-proofing of buildings, it’s fortunate that the numbers of people who died are relatively low. You can find out all about the earthquake, and also see the fault itself and a building right on the fault that somehow survived the quake at the Nojima Fault Preservation Museum.

Japan’s Oldest Onsen

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Onsen is the Japanese word for a natural hot spring that comes out of the ground. Dōgo Onsen in Matsuyama City is supposed to be Japan’s very oldest public onsen bath! It is said that this particular onsen was found when a wandering priest was walking along and saw a white heron bathing its injured leg in the hot water. Later the heron’s leg healed completely. The current building was built in the late 19th century and has a special bath and lounge just for the Emperor of Japan. But now anyone can use the special Imperial bath and lounge by paying a higher price than for just the normal bath.

A Wonderful Waterfall

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These amazing waterfalls are the Amagoi-no taki, located near Kamiyama in Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku Island. They are said to be one of the 100 most beautiful waterfalls in Japan! If you look closely on the left hand side of the falls you will see a metal chain that runs up the slippery rocks at the side of the waterfall. The idea is that you can use the chain to help you to climb up and around the whole waterfall as a kind of pilgrimage and take a dip in the upper pool (I didn’t quite dare do this as the rocks were extremely slippery and if I fell it wouldn’t end nicely!). This whole area is full of mosses and ferns and we saw quite a few frogs and toads. It is a lovely but very steep walk up to the falls.

Ice Creams Galore!

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Japan has a lot of ice cream stores as well as ice cream vending machines (but that’s another story!). This is a store in Yamaguchi Prefecture and when I took this picture it was cherry blossom season and there was a queue of about 30 people!! There are so many flavours it was hard to choose which to have. In the picture the green ice creams are green tea flavour (which I don’t like very much even though I like to drink green tea) and the purple ones are grape flavour.