Gifu

Leg 2 of my winter holidays found me in Gifu. This part of my journey was definitely one of my highlights of travelling in Japan and I hope that I can do justice in explaining why. Stepping out of the train station at Nakatsugawa, I was hit by the silence of the small town. It’s true, I had just come from Yudanaka, which seemed smaller but not quieter. Nakatsugawa had an air of quiet about it. I hopped on the bus, as per my directions and got off at Magome. I was instantly awed by the quiet beauty of the place. The stunning backdrop coupled with the quiet was heavenly tranquil and peaceful. I wondered up the Magome slope that wound it’s way through the town and up to the guest house where I was staying.

The guest house ( Magome Guest House ) was a lovely wooden style building. I was greeted by a very friendly young woman, who spoke perfect English. She asked if I was doing “The hike” in the morning. “Sure”, I replied, “What’s the hike?”. I had been drawn to the town because of the picturesque views, the beautiful looking small town and I had heard it was good for hiking, but I hadn’t known there was A HIKE. The woman explained that Magome was a post town on the Nakasendo way. An old highway which goes from Tokyo to Kyoto. The route from Magome to the next post town, Tsumago has lots of historical importance and is a widely popular route for tourists and locals alike. I was sold at “So,are you doing the hike?”

Map of the Nakasendo way

That first evening I went for a stroll to the observatory at the top of the sloped town. I arrived just around sunset and was blown away by the majesty of it. I know it’s kind of cliche to say, but the photos really don’t do this place justice. It was essentially a 180 panoramic view starting at the sight of the old town sloping into the setting sun, then scanning to the left a series of mountains rose high,almost out of no where. The clouds were low ( or perhaps it was mist ) and was settling in the vast drops of the valleys.

I set off at 9 am the next morning, and hardly saw anyone until I reached Tsumago. The path was amazing, a lot of different style paths, mostly through woods and tiny towns or maybe clusters of wooden houses is a more accurate description, and across a few roads. I came across ancient trees, shrines, waterfalls, beautiful views and rivers.

 

Amusingly, every so often you come across a bell with a rope. There is a notice in Japanese and underneath it reads in English “ring bell hard against bears” I guess they worked because I didn’t see any bears… then again I did ring the bells pretty loudly, you know, just to be sure!

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It turned out I had set out a little to enthusiastically and it was still pretty early when I arrived at Tsumago, I was also enjoying the lonesome quiet in the beautiful countryside too much and wasn’t quite ready to go back the the hostel, so I continued my hike to Nagiso station an extra 3km. I think in total Magome to Nagiso is around 10k. From Nagiso I took the train back to Nakatsugawa and then, still not quite done I walked a further 3 is km to the Naegi castle remains, locally nicknamed as the Machu Pichu of the north ( 北のマチュピチュ). A slight exaggeration there, but the view was pretty amazing.

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Kita no Machu Pichu was a little harder to find with a lot less signage on the way. It seems more like the kind of place people drive to rather than hike… anyway as I was walking up the forever winding road that went up and up, I suddenly saw a tiny sign post at the side of the road pointing to something that looked like some kind of opening and a trail … of sorts .. I decided this must be a shortcut for hikers as most of the kanji matched that from the picture on my tourist leaflet. After a 20 min scramble at a fairly decent incline, I saw an opening and kind of burst of a bush right at the foot of the castle, much to the surprise of a middle aged Japanese couple who had driven up and were enjoying a leisurely stroll!I was both so grateful and disappointed that I discovered this part of Japan at the very end of my time there. Disappointed because I wish I had more time to explore ( which I do, there is no doubt in my mind that I will go back to visit ), but grateful that I ended on such a great note. It’s hard to say where it comes in my highlights of Japan but it is certainly near the top. If your visiting Japan,  please please visit Gifu !!!

I am, as of now back in the UK for the foreseeable future, I have one last adventure to catch you guys up on. That will be in my next post all about Koya San! And then I shall probably continue with some blogs of my UK adventures 🙂

 

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Snow Monkeys in Yudanaka

Well it had to be done didn’t it. I just couldn’t spend 2 and a half years in Japan without going to see the snow monkeys in the hot springs in Nagano. I arrived into the beautiful town of Yudanaka in the evening of Christmas day or, which was perfect because Yudanaka at night looks like what I would imagine Christmas to look like if it were a town.

I spent the evening wondering around  the village feeling enchanted by all of the small lantern lit alleys , beautiful wooden buildings with steam seeping out from the many onsen doors.

The town is an onsen town so when you stay in a ryokan there, you get a special key which opens all of the the doors to all of the onsens in the village – awesome 🙂

The next day it was time to head up to the park to see the Monkeys. The walk way up to the monkey area was beautiful, a true winter wonderland!

It was about a half hour walk from the start of the park to the monkey area. For the first part ( which is beautiful enough ) there is no admission fee. For the Monkey Park it is a very reasonable ¥680. And it’s worth it for all the cute monkeys !

 

There is plenty to see and do in this area I spent the rest of my time here just hiking and taking in the beauty of this town with a backdrop of the Japanese alps.

 

This was just part one of my last minute sprint around Japan during the winter holidays. Tune in next time to hear all about my time if Gifu. Perhaps one of the true highlights of my time in Japan !

 

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Let there be Light – day 8

“According to the proverb, the longest way round is the shortest way home. It seems to be necessary to try to discover the secret by going somewhere in order to learn that you already possess it. The path always takes you round in a circle, back to the place where you stand” – Alan Watts, the meaning of happiness.

I came across this quote yesterday and actually it’s a quote from a quote but anyway, it rings so true for me. So often we feel like we’re just going round in circles , right ? Like we just keep coming back the same spot. Word famous philosopher  Alan Watts essentially says “Yup” with his above quote. But it’s not all in vain, we never come back round to that place the exact same person. The journey , the rotation always takes us somewhere and teaches us something. Something that was probably there all along, that we just hadn’t noticed.

I bet if you reflect and look back over the last couple of years , your not the same person as you are now, not the exact same.

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The other day I was hiking and I came across this stunning view. It struck me how different my life was from a few years ago. I imagined my past self seeing into the present and being amazed. Then I started to look forward and wondering where I will be standing and what I will be looking at in a few years time. And call me a hippy ,but I heard an inaudible voice saying “you just wait.”

And I believe it, if there is one thing I have learnt in my time travelling ( actually there are many things ) – and from listening to a lot from Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell – is that  you absolutely have the power to be the creator of your life.

2017 will bring me back home to England, round in a full geographical circle, but after seeing what I managed to create for my self in Japan, in a foreign country where I could barely speak the language when I arrived, I have no doubt in my ability to create just as an amazing life for myself back home in England. By the way I’m not superhuman you all have this very same power too. So look back,reflect, see what you have built , who you have become, evaluate yourself now and who you could be in the future. Peace and happy new year x

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Let there be light – day 7

Today I want to talk about the kindness of strangers which leads me to believe that despite the darkness that exists within some humans in the world. I truly believe that the majority of people are good. Why do I think this ? Well when I leave my house in the morning , my neighbours aren’t waiting outside for me to emerge from my apartment to attack me. As I write this in a common room of a hostel, there are other people here and no one seems to be expressing murderous rage ( if they are they are suppressing it very well ). Actually as I have been travelling around Japan, people often go out of their way to help me out. Wondering around Osaka station today, probably looking rather lost as I was trying to find the right platform, a lady stops to ask if I need help. Before, I’ve been offered rides , food , a place to stay. And yes, part of this is because culturally Japan are one of the most helpful,kind, and hosting countries to visit. But this kind of thing is not so rare in England and I bet if you travel to anywhere in the world, you will find that more or less everyday people are good. I know there are places right now which are full of fighting , where people are unable to leave their homes and countries because of awful war zones and fighting, but I would argue that it is not everyday people causing these problems. They are problems caused by the unfortunate darkness that does exist is some people and that in the average person you will find goodness. Peace x

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Let there be Light – day 6

Today’s idea of light is one you may all ready be familiar with. I came across it last year on my favourite author’s (Elizabeth Gilbert) face book page and I think it’s quite a commonly known idea/practice. It’s the happiness jar. The idea is you take a jar/box/any kind of container and through out the year you write things that have made you happy. They can be big things or little things. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it made you smile, it goes in the jar. I think you are supposed to try and do it everyday. I can’t say I’ve kept up to that,but I have done it regularly enough to have a full jar by the end of the year. The idea is to then, on New Years Eve open, read and reflect on all the things that made you happy in the last year. Then you start again for the next year. I’m currently travelling so I won’t open mine until January 1st or 2nd but I’m super excited to read all the things that made me happy. I’ll add my favourite to the bottom of this post when I open it!

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Idea behind  Let there be Light: This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide very closely together. And while they are different holidays celebrating different things from different religions. They are both about light. Light has many symbolic meanings for all kinds of people but in general it is seen as a positive symbol for love , hope and joy. 2016 has had a lot of ups and downs for many people I know, both personally and globally. But you guys, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year and runs through to the new year. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. While I don’t follow either of the religions behind Christmas or Hanukkah personally, I love the idea of finishing 2016 with 8 days of light and I want to encourage other people to do the same. I know that there are some pretty awful things going on in the world right now, and I don’t want to belittle the darkness that very much exists, but what if we can be the light? What ever that looks like for you in your situation , in your life right now. Each day I’m going to look,find,make a piece of light and share it with the world via all of my social media. How beautiful would it be if we could get everyone to do the same. ❤

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Let there be Light – day 5

Today’s subject is literally a “light” one. Some pictures of stuff I have taken that have made me laugh or smile 😀 Enjoy.

Christmas day was a day of travelling for me. It got off to a strange start. It was early morning. I was on the bus to the airport trying to to drift off when suddenly at the side of the road I spot a samurai practicing his sword manoeuvres. THEY LIVE AMONG US!

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One might think he was merely making good use of his time whilst waiting for the lights to change,but no. Lights changed and he was very happy just donning his sword skills.

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On the 26th, I went to the monkey park in Nagano prefecture, Japan. Who couldn’t smile at a monkey mother and baby having a soak?

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Monkeys don’t do it for you? How about a bunch of cats , just you know chilling. Nope not a special cat park. Just an average neighbourhood hangout in Nagasaki….

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Idea behind Let there be Light: This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide very closely together. And while they are different holidays celebrating different things from different religions. They are both about light. Light has many symbolic meanings for all kinds of people but in general it is seen as a positive symbol for love , hope and joy. 2016 has had a lot of ups and downs for many people I know, both personally and globally. But you guys, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year and runs through to the new year. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. While I don’t follow either of the religions behind Christmas or Hanukkah personally, I love the idea of finishing 2016 with 8 days of light and I want to encourage other people to do the same. I know that there are some pretty awful things going on in the world right now, and I don’t want to belittle the darkness that very much exists, but what if we can be the light? What ever that looks like for you in your situation , in your life right now. Each day I’m going to look,find,make a piece of light and share it with the world via all of my social media. How beautiful would it be if we could get everyone to do the same. ❤

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Let there be Light – day 4

Today is about my incredible, amazing Gran ! She is such a light in my life. Through out my entire life she has been there and present, not only with me but all of her 7 grandchildren, her daughters and well everyone who is lucky enough to be in her presence really. Whenever she is not geographically close she keeps in good contact with everyone. Receiving letters from her has been my a consistent part of my life, but even more so whilst I have been living abroad.  But do not be fooled into thinking she is down with only traditional ways of communicating. A few years ago, she acquired a mobile phone and regularly texts her UK based grandchildren. On top of that this incredible adaptable woman at the ripe old age of 92 has just bought an I pad which she now uses for letter writing ! Last month I received my first hand typed letter from her. Of course, on one hand, I will miss her beautiful hand writing, but on the other hand, I also think it’s the coolest thing in the world to receive a letter she has written and printed from her I pad. I’m also a little ashamed that my Grandmother has surpassed me in her ability to use technology….. lots of love to you Gran x

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Idea behind  Let there be Light: This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide very closely together. And while they are different holidays celebrating different things from different religions. They are both about light. Light has many symbolic meanings for all kinds of people but in general it is seen as a positive symbol for love , hope and joy. 2016 has had a lot of ups and downs for many people I know, both personally and globally. But you guys, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year and runs through to the new year. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. While I don’t follow either of the religions behind Christmas or Hanukkah personally, I love the idea of finishing 2016 with 8 days of light and I want to encourage other people to do the same. I know that there are some pretty awful things going on in the world right now, and I don’t want to belittle the darkness that very much exists, but what if we can be the light? What ever that looks like for you in your situation , in your life right now. Each day I’m going to look,find,make a piece of light and share it with the world via all of my social media. How beautiful would it be if we could get everyone to do the same. ❤

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Let there be Light – day 3

Today I would like to show you what heaven looks like. Here it is.

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My bicycle, heaven for me is cycling on an open road or cycle track ( preferably flat or down hill…)  with no blockages up ahead. It’s just me, the environment and the satisfying feeling of progressing forward. What I love both metaphorically and literally about cycling is that you can’t go backwards ( unless you stop peddling half way up a hill, then your kind of screwed). The only way you can peddle is forward, if you want to go back, you have to consciously turn around and go in the other direction. Changing direction isn’t the same as going backwards. Changing direction means you realised you have made a mistake, or that you’ve decided to go this way now, and even though you’ve turned around, have a look down, check it out your still peddling forward. Your still progressing ximg_9244

Idea behind  Let there be Light: This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide very closely together. And while they are different holidays celebrating different things from different religions. They are both about light. Light has many symbolic meanings for all kinds of people but in general it is seen as a positive symbol for love , hope and joy. 2016 has had a lot of ups and downs for many people I know, both personally and globally. But you guys, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year and runs through to the new year. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. While I don’t follow either of the religions behind Christmas or Hanukkah personally, I love the idea of finishing 2016 with 8 days of light and I want to encourage other people to do the same. I know that there are some pretty awful things going on in the world right now, and I don’t want to belittle the darkness that very much exists, but what if we can be the light? What ever that looks like for you in your situation , in your life right now. Each day I’m going to look,find,make a piece of light and share it with the world via all of my social media. How beautiful would it be if we could get everyone to do the same. ❤

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Let there be Light – day 2

Today is about love and gratefulness for my family and friends.Today is Christmas day. A day in my culture which is very important for family gathering and living in communion with each other. This year I am away from home, travelling and exploring the world – yet another thing I am extremely grateful for. Although geographically I am far from my family and friends, I feel close to  them in spirit. Over the last few weeks I have received hand written cards from many of them and thanks to the incredible progression of technology. I have been able to connect and share a little bit of my Christmas connecting with my loved ones. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah , seasons greetings to you all.

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Christmas cards from family and friends

Idea behind  Let there be Light: This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide very closely together. And while they are different holidays celebrating different things from different religions. They are both about light. Light has many symbolic meanings for all kinds of people but in general it is seen as a positive symbol for love , hope and joy. 2016 has had a lot of ups and downs for many people I know, both personally and globally. But you guys, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year and runs through to the new year. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. While I don’t follow either of the religions behind Christmas or Hanukkah personally, I love the idea of finishing 2016 with 8 days of light and I want to encourage other people to do the same. I know that there are some pretty awful things going on in the world right now, and I don’t want to belittle the darkness that very much exists, but what if we can be the light? What ever that looks like for you in your situation , in your life right now. Each day I’m going to look,find,make a piece of light and share it with the world via all of my social media. How beautiful would it be if we could get everyone to do the same.

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Let there be Light – day 1

Day one for me is all about joy. Joy is perhaps my second favourite word in existence. ( My first favourite word in existence is denwa-bango it is Japanese for telephone number and it’s just the most fun word to say ever, although technically , maybe it’s two words… ) This may sound trivial to some people, but I think that is because joy is to commonly mistaken for happiness. I don’t believe that joy is about whether you feel happy or not. I think joy is much deeper than that. I believe that joy is a kind of energy that keeps everything running. I think you can be miserable and still have joy because joy is the thing that keeps you going, the reason why you continue living despite of whatever it is you are facing.

Idea behind  Let there be Light: This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide very closely together. And while they are different holidays celebrating different things from different religions. They are both about light. Light has many symbolic meanings for all kinds of people but in general it is seen as a positive symbol for love , hope and joy. 2016 has had a lot of ups and downs for many people I know, both personally and globally. But you guys, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve this year and runs through to the new year. I consider myself spiritual but not religious. While I don’t follow either of the religions behind Christmas or Hanukkah personally, I love the idea of finishing 2016 with 8 days of light and I want to encourage other people to do the same. I know that there are some pretty awful things going on in the world right now, and I don’t want to belittle the darkness that very much exists, but what if we can be the light? What ever that looks like for you in your situation , in your life right now. Each day I’m going to look,find,make a piece of light and share it with the world via all of my social media. How beautiful would it be if we could get everyone to do the same. ❤

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