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It’s Hanami Time! Sakura Blossoms Come to Yamaguchi

Yeeeeeah, that’s right. The 桜 (sakura/さくら) are here. Cherry blossoms everywhere! Finally, I feel like a kid in a Miyazaki movie. Cherry blossoms are, the quintessential ‘wanna see’ for any North American kid who’s ever dreamed of going to Japan. The beautiful trees are everywhere.  From a distance it sort of looks like they’re covered in this pink-white snow fluff.  Get a good gust of wind and they shower blossoms down all over you.

The sakura blossoms only last for about 2-3 weeks, so everyone tries to enjoy them while they can. You can see tons of people stopping at the side of the roads to take pictures; everyone from giggly jr. high girls to black-suited salarymen: no one is immune.  

‘Hana mi’ literally means ‘flower viewing’ (花見). From the end of March to early May while the cherry and plum (ume) blossoms bloom, you can find people gathering outdoors for walks, picnics, photos and other festivities. In general, everyone is in a wonderful mood.  At night, you’ll see a lot of teenagers and young people having nighttime picnics with lots of beer and sake near the trees. These can get a little more rowdy, although in general everyone is still very respectful (it is Japan, after all).

I actually can not stop taking pictures of them. I wonder if there’s a Japanese word to describe this compulsion?  Sakura fever?

We’re so lucky at Yamaguchi Prefectural University to have a huge sakura trees blooming right outside our cafeteria on campus. 

You can sit, study, eat and relax while the blossoms dance around you on the wind.  If that isn’t picturesque, then – – well, you know what? It is, no matter what.

Friendly classmates in the cafeteria’s outdoor eating area!

This is my kind, smart and beautiful tutor, Miho! Everybody clap for Miho! I’m not the most studious student of Japanese, too busy running off and having adventures, but she puts up with me nonetheless.  She even took my picture!

I feel so lucky to be here; to get to experience all these beautiful sights and sounds, smells, existence, ahhhhhh. Truly, the world is an amazing place!

My Neighbour’s Radishes are Doing Well

Here’s a large Japanese radish that my neighbor grows, here in Miyano. They’re known as “daikon” (大根)which literally means “big root”. It’s one of Japan’s biggest agricultural items, with different pieces of the daikon showing up all over in the Japanese culinary arts.

Agriculture is so beautiful here. Everything is small. It’s true, I’ve seen huge monoculture fields and thought, “Wow, this sight is really impressive.” but in Japan, because of the mountanous landscape all the farming is done small. Even if you have a large area devoted to rice paddies, they’re subdivided into smaller sections for irrigation purposes. It’s really something. Especially in areas here like Miyano, I feel like everybody grows a little something, even if it’s only radishes, or rice. They all grow something to share or trade with their neighbours, or to give as gifts. 

On the other side of our house, we have another neighbour that grows rice. Here they are with their son in the field.  I’ve waved hi and chatted with the kid a few times, but I don’t know their names. Sometimes I feel badly for them because they have to share a neighbourhood recycling station with us foreigners who are so poor at the Japanese art of proper recycling and waste disposal.

House Guests

I found this little snail on my desk today. He climbed up my teapot. That’s the thing about Japanese houses; when the warm weather starts, you find all sorts of little interesting creatures crawling about. Normally just little stink beetles (as seen below), but occasionally more exciting guests.  If we were abit more rual, I would have to start worrying about buying repellant for the terrible mukade centipede (although, legend has it one did once find its way into one of the American exchange student’s rooms here in Miyano).

Visit to Rurikō-ji Temple

Update 1: my sleeping schedule seems to have righted itself! I slept in all the way until 7am this morning! Woop!

Update 2: I’ve started playing around with HDR, as seen in the photo of the pagoda taken at Rurikō-ji, above.  I’ve seen a lot of ugly HDR, enough to almost dissuade me from trying it, but I figured I couldn’t knock it until I’d tried it.  I didn’t think this was too bad!

Yesterday, a bunch of us foreign exchange students biked up to the Rurikō-ji Temple and Five-Storied Pagoda that is one of the main architectural and religious attractions of Yamaguchi.

There is a steep little street that leads up to the temple gates full of souvenir and sweet shops. If you’re biking, I recommend parking up at the temple gates and then walking back to the shops. It was really hot, and the flavoured ice treats were heaven.




The pagoda is 31.2 metres high, and was completed in 1442. There is also the main temple located further within the complex.  Surrounding the grounds are beautiful zen gardens, lush with plum and sakura trees. Before entering the shrine, it is the buddhist tradition to wash your hands and mouth before entering, at a spring such as the one pictured below. Here’s how it’s supposed to go:


  1. The wooden ladles are provided so that you may scoop out some of the spring’s water and dump it over your hands.
  2. Then you pour some of the water into your hands to take into your mouth,
  3. You then spit it out (the plants near the foot of the spring were soaked).

Of course, no one having told me this, I messed it up a bit.

First of all, I nearly drank straight from the ladle (which is a no-no. You’re not supposed to touch the bowl of the ladle at all.) Secondly, I spit the water like a cowboy in a 1900s saloon. It’s supposed to be a modest squirt.  I could practically hear the older Japanese around me cringe. Next time, I’ll be sure to be a bit more subtle with my cleansing.


All these little Buddhas with orange caps reminded me of a play my boyfriend had recently written and toured across Canada, Little Dickie Milburn.  It’s like there were tiny Dickies everywhere.

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The shrine and gardens were absolutely beautiful, and very peaceful. There was even a cute couple having their wedding photos done there.

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Seeing the photographer and assistant/mom/family member fuss over the bride for her photos reminded me of so many photoshoots. It was nice to see that shoot etiquette is apparently very similar in Japan.

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Between Rakel and Kei-chan, we have smiles for days!

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Our group of exchange students is incredibly cute. I’m so lucky I wound up with such great people on this exchange!


Spring JLPT Headshots

These colorful berries seem to be in season right now. I’ve seen them in a few places around Miyano; these ones are right in my backyard! I grabbed a few shots while Lou (another exchange student here from Bishop’s) grabbed his glasses. We were doing head shots for him to send off to his JLPT exam.

Unfortunately I arrived too late to register, but most of the western exchange students who were here last semester are preparing to write it now. It happens in a month or so. So, be forewarned! If you’re only coming for the spring/summer (like me) and want to write the JLPT, get your paperwork in beforehand!

Pancake Breakfast in Japan

It’s easy to miss your normal breakfast when staying in another country.  For normal breakfast here is a container of nattou (fermented soybeans – they taste gross, but are really good for you) and an orange; maybe some toast and jam (jam is hella expensive, so I don’t know if I’ll keep this up).

So, yesterday I made myself some pancakes for breakfast. Amazingly, you can quite easily find “Hot Cake Mix” locally here in the stores, even though not many people are familiar with them. My Chinese roommate seemed skeptical about the taste and use of maple syrup, so I also sort of made these pancakes to convince her that we actually eat the stuff.   Like a lot of Chinese, they usually have rice, or fish for breakfast. “Breakfast food” isn’t really a thing here. People eat what they’d normally eat for their other meals of the day.

 I hear that the Canadian exchange students who came before me apparently made french toast really popular in Miyano.