Sakura (cherry blossoms) are a famous symbol of Japan. They arrive in the west part of the country first, and move eastward. They have now arrived here in Sakata, so today I went to Hiyoriyama park for hanami (flower viewing). The park's many trees were in full bloom, and it was quite a sight. To top it off, the many people who came out to see the cherry blossoms were also treated to a perfect sunset over the Japan Sea.
In March, my friend Vaibhav happened to be passing through Japan on his way back to Vancouver, so we met up and spent a little over a week travelling around Japan. In this short space of time, we managed to go to Tokyo, Kamakura, Kyoto, Nara, and Eiheiji. So far this has definitely been the highlight of my year in Japan. I had a great time, took around 850 photos, and now I've finally had the chance to put together these galleries and write up the stories.
Update: all of the pages are now up.
I've been living in Yamagata City for a little over 3 months, during which Japan experienced an unusually cold winter with a record-setting amount of snow. It caused its share of problems, but it also made for some great winter scenery. Since I'm about to move to Sakata, I thought I'd share some of the photos I've taken here over the past few months -- a mix of winter scenes and cityscapes.
Learning to write Japanese characters beautifully is something I've always wanted to do. Now that I'm in Japan, it seems like an ideal time to start, so I went to my first calligraphy lesson this morning. I learned a few basic strokes, bought a brush and some ink to practise at home, and made my first attempts at some basic characters.
I got a really cool cellphone today. It has a large, rotating display, 1.9 Mpx camera, and SD memory card slot. It does video conferencing, takes pictures, records video and audio, and I can use it as a wireless modem (via Bluetooth) for my laptop, to go online from basically anywhere. And best of all, it was free with a one-year contract.
Blizzards kept us in Sakata overnight this Saturday, but it turned out to be a great thing. I stayed in a Japanese-style room, and met some really nice people who took me sightseeing the next day. We checked out the Ken Domon Museum of Photography, and Zenpoji -- a beautiful temple in the Shonai area of Yamagata prefecture.
Today I visited Yamadera, an amazing temple built in the side of a mountain. It consists of about 40 very beautiful buildings, and was first opened in the year 860, during the Heian Era. In 1689, Matsuo Basho -- a famous master of haiku -- visited Yamadera, and wrote a very well-known haiku about it.