Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fuji Sengen Jinja

Well, looks like in the end, I have ended up writing something here again! ;) Too many cool photos getting dust in the darkest corner of my computer...

I want to show you some photos of a nice place I visited in the end of May: Fuji Yoshida jinja, the shrine from which the climb to Mt Fuji starts. Have a look at the pictures. Still not much time to spare... sorry!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The end?

Wow, that was quite an effort; three long posts in a row, non-stop and with many photos! I hope you have enjoyed and I haven't bored you too much.

After more than 3 years and around 505 posts, my life has changed quite a lot. I have lived in 3 countries, visited many more (in one week I will get to 49 visited countries!) and tried to make the most of my time on Earth.

My life now is quite different. I am married, have an interesting and absorbing job and live in Japan again. When I created this blog, I intended it was a way of communicating with my friends and family. It has accomplished its purpose quite alright, but now I feel I do not have much time and I would like to use that little time to communicate with people more directly. I want to have time to reply to emails, have some phone conversations, etc.

Therefore, I have decided to stop writing in this blog for the time being. I do not know yet if it will be permanently or just for a while, until I figure out how to manage my time better. Anyway, thank you for reading this blog and leaving your comments! I hope you have enjoyed reading it!!

Best, Alvaro

PS: Use this post to leave your last comments!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dazaifu 太宰府

From Kumamoto, I came back to Fukuoka, where my trip had started. It had been almost a week and many amazing places: Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Beppu, Aso, Kumamoto... So many photos and good memories. It was time to come back home to Tokyo, to my wife and to start my work. But before, another surprise, the former government place of Dazaifu, just south of Fukuoka.

Dazaifu used to be the most important place in Kyushu, the place of the government office in the island from around 670. Consequently, the town is full of interesting temples and some less interesting ruins...

The main tourist drag is Tenman-gu, a famouse shrine. At that time, plums were blooming and the shrine fields were very beautiful. I have repeated this word many times today, but what else could I say!! ;)

Then I went to see a nice piece of modern architecture, the Kyushu National Museum. On the way there, many blooming trees... a nice walk...

Most tourists go to Dazaifu to see Tenmangu and come to Fukuoka. But I had some time and wanted to enjoy Dazaifu. It was a very small town, which really felt in the countryside, with nice temples and shrines, and mostly empty of crowds. People were even surprised a foreigner was walking around the deserted "streets". I quoted streets because in some cases they just became dirt tracks!!

In this random wandering, I found a gem: Kōmyōzen-ji, a zen temple which turns out to be also pretty famous! It is famous for its two rock gardens, one at the front and one at the back. Both were very interesting. And the best point of my visit was I was COMPLETELY alone. I spend around 30 minutes there and met nobody! That was just great to soak the atmosphere!!

As I said before, my walk led me to real countryside Japan. I do not think it can get much more countryside inside a city!!

Some more famous temples...

... and one of the only few places where Buddhist apprentices could become monks in all Japan in ancient times. It was a quite important place and again, I was completely alone!!

More countryside photos... Who would not like to live in such a cool house? I was expecting some samurai to come out to greet me at the entrance gate!

And finally, I visited the site of the governmental offices of Kyushu. Nothing remains apart from some columns foundations and three stones with Japanese inscriptions. It is a bit out of the way, but can be nice if you have some time and fancy for a stroll in a quiet and peaceful area!

Back in Fukuoka, lunch at a nice place and flight back to Tokyo. It was time to start life over!!

Kumamoto 熊本

My next stop in Kyushu was Kumamoto. This city houses one of the three best preserved original castles in Japan. The other two are Himeji and Matsumoto. You can probably find those two in this blog too ;) Yep, I have visited the three of them!!

The castle, as all other famous castles in Japan, was really beautiful and I think it is better you enjoy the photos and I shut up and let you enjoy!

Mount Aso   阿蘇山

Well, it has taken me some time to reply to my previous post question... I have been considering stopping writing this blog. It has been many years, more than 500 posts and more than 30000 visits! So, it would not be nice to quit without a couple of nice posts...

With respect to the previous post, the answer is it is the Earth... That landscape looks otherworldly and surely it is. It is Mount Aso in Kyushu, my next stop in my trip in Kyushu after spending some self-indulging time in the hotspring paradise of Beppu. After one day soaking in thermal waters and enjoying seafood, it was time to move back to the other coast of the island and what better way than making my trip through a national park?!

Transportation in Japan is simply amazing, as anybody who has ever visited this country knows. Therefore, there was a bus departing in the early morning from Beppu and going all the way to Kumamoto, on the other coast, stopping at the crater of Mount Aso, a famous volcano in the middle of Kyushu. Actually, Aso san is the biggest volcanic caldera in the world and has several volcanoes inside!! It felt really promising!

The ride was nice since we departed Beppu. Just from there, the road went up as we entered Aso san NP. The road twisted precariously on the gray volcanic slopes.

After several hours and a couple of renowned volcanoes, we made it to Aso, a little sleepy town just below three huge volcanoes. It was time to go to the crater.

The green warm lands of Kyushu turned into something more similar to high mountain landscape as the road went up.

Soon, the landscape turned surreal! "Oh my God! Is that an smoking volcano??!!" And yes, it was. And not the only one... or the largest... That morning I would visit one of the most amazing places I have ever been to. You need to be there to believe it.

The bus continued for a while and when it stopped, we were just there, below the crater of Aso san. It was time to climb it. The climb is really short (40 minutes) and ok for people in every physical condition. It was the third volcano I climbed and the third time I was going to looked down a crater, but there was a surprise.

On the way up, amazing landscapes and huge boulders which came flying from some previous explosion...

On the side of the road, many bunkers in case the mountain decided to unleash all its power and let us know we cannot control nature's rage.

And when I got to the top... the crater was full of a greenish liquid and was really "smoking out"! I have been to several volcanoes, taller than this, more famous, but they were always dormant. This was active and really boiling the strange liquid in its crater. I just could not believe my eyes. It was the beauty of power, the appeal of destruction. I had never felt before such a feeling... the feeling everything can go wrong the moment the mountain wants... we were at its mercy...

After spending some time looking like a small kid into the smoky crater, it was time to continue the hike and enjoy some really unbelievable scenery. So colorful, such a powerful sight.

This is the map which shows the crater and the hike.

Back on the bus, on the way to Kumamoto, and with the images of the crater still in my retina, time to see some tiny volcanoes... Was all this true, was I dreaming??

Some more photos and panoramas I just created and which can help you figure out if this was just a dream. :)