Enjoy the journey.

Tag: bicycles

April was…


April sweets.


And an April Fool (we won’t see Shallow again until August).


Very important preparations being made.


By Kin as well! He’ll be studying again in August and is making sure that he’s ready.


Hikiyama matsuri

Onna gata kid

Hikiyama Matsuri (one of Nagahama’s most famous festivals).

gateway view


Time to resume our Lake Biwa adventures!


April was short days, long bike rides and genuine joy at being outdoors. It was time for both of us to shake off our winter blues and get back to work on our drawing, studying and just straight making; food, ceramics and music.

We’re looking forward to a period of rest and focus in May, before we really start to get ready for Australia!

Kin and Gem



March was…




Spring! Finally, actual, no-more-wishful-thinking SPRING! 




The return of old friends…






Including Shallow!




Rediscovering that Tokyo is insane.




Parties! Actual outdoor ones, after dark!




Hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) in Yoyogi Park. There were so many different parties going on that they all sort of made one BIG party!




The Indoor Refugees’ triumphant return to the Great Outdoors.



Gem’s birthday! These are my presents from Kin, including Kyoto courtyard gardening books and a gorgeous new (second hand) goldy-green kimono! My parents have a finger lime waiting for me back in Oz as well, so I have a pretty good haul this year. Thank you everyone! – Gem


March began chilly and still, but soon warmed up to be busy, busy, busy, with trips, events and new discoveries popping up every day!  March was new blooms, night buses and near-nudity! Well….

Okay, no-one’s actually naked, but now that we’ve peeled off the layers of yeti-skins we’ve been wearing all winter and are walking around in actual human clothes, we feel a bit that way. It’s so lovely to be able to wear pretty clothes again and to just step outside whenever you feel like it! The ducks are back, the bats are back, insects are busy everywhere you look and we have survived our LAST EVER Northern Hemisphere winter! In four months, we’ll be back where the weather is sane!

February’s promise has definitely been met; the earth has warmed, nature is hard at work and it’s time for things to happen. And our countdown to Australia gets shorter every day…

It’s go-time!

Kin and Gem



February was…



The first faint stirrings of spring!



Indoors, that is.

(This is the Nagahama Bonbai Festival; a lovely collection of plum blossom bonsai.)


Frost-free cycling!





Warm times with friends. Indoors.




Peaceful times at home. Indoors.




The first insect of the season! Also indoors; this little guy followed us in with a load of washing and settled straight onto the indoor refugees.




Time for learning.




And practice.
(You can peek at more of Kin’s practice on our Facebook page)




And time for wine! Although much less than usual; this work with the physio is really paying off.




And time to see how other people feel the change of the season.

February was flowers, fun and frosty mornings. It was brisk walks outdoors and warm cuppas indoors, not to mention some Kansai travel with friends. It was also waiting, waiting, waiting! Waiting for the warm weather; it’s so close now, we can almost TASTE it. Waiting for the school holiday. And waiting for Shallow‘s arrival in March!  February was potential; but we are oh, so ready for the actuality of March.

Let’s get this year moving!

Kin and Gem



Ishigaki Island


By Gem
278Well here we are, back at work and back from three days in Okinawa. We had a wonderful time in the Yaeyama Islands and feel much better for it, despite receiving a scrape or two from some coral as well as a really stupid-looking triangle I managed to burn around my glowing white butt.

The triangle is brown now. The butt is still white.

With the end of third term, our Japan countdown has started. It’s only eleven months now until we’ll be back in Australia and we’re starting to feel a certain amount of pressure to make the most of our remaining time. With that in mind, we figured, it’s summer, the kids are on break and hotel air conditioning is included in the price. What better time for a trip away?

240Ishigaki starts being lovely as soon as you land. Kin made a dash for the luggage carousel, while I made one for the Ladies, but even those activities were made more pleasant than on the mainland. The orchid decorating the washbasins was deep gold, cheerful and actually alive. Meeting Kin at the carousel, it was the same; the entire airport was full of colourful plants and aquariums with brilliant local sea life. 247

Ishigaki is basically a tourist trap; a pleasant, reasonably-priced tourist trap that actually has the history and the natural attractions to back up its reputation. They want to be certain that your time is enjoyable from start to finish, I suppose, so the airport was just the first step.

The Ishigaki landscape looks a lot like Northern NSW or Queensland if it had been settled by Thai or Chinese people. The architecture is completely different to our area of Japan; lots of very solid, blocky little ground-hugging structures with very different lines and shapes to the ones in Honshu. Also a lot of cement! I suppose there isn’t a lot of hardwood available in a climate like that and you can tell that they must see some really nasty weather sometimes.

315We’d booked rooms at a basic (but nice) Minshuku, so we hopped off our bus at the ferry port, found it very quickly (thank you, Google Maps!) then dumped our bags and headed out to find bikes to rent.

Now I know I usually rave about bikes being the best way to see a place, but I will actually admit this isn’t the case on Ishigaki. The recommended way of getting around the island is by rental car and I can definitely see why; the cars are very cheap and the island is very hilly! Nevertheless, we boarded our gearless mama-charis and headed off to adventure.

314We spent a LOT of time on those bikes over the next three days. DAMN does that island have a lot of hills! We managed to survive the experience, see a lot and have a lovely time, but if you can, just rent the car. You’ll be happier in the long run.

Most of our time was spent cycling the (many, many) hills of Ishigaki or exploring the awesome coral at Yonehara Beach; we spent two extremely happy days on that reef alone (I could probably spend the rest of my life there).

288 329 327 306Still, we did manage to haul ourselves away on our last day to visit Taketomi Island, which along with a star-sand beach and its own selection of fabulous reefs also has a very, very old town, which has maintained a very traditional Okinawan style of living.464

It also has some seriously nice sugar-cane icecream, which Kin ordered and I promptly stole after tasting (he stole my mango sorbet).461

Sadly, we didn’t get to Iriomote Island. We only had three full days on the islands and we spent most of them on Ishigaki. To be honest, we probably should have based ourselves on Iriomote instead, but Ishigaki coral is amazing and the town has attractions of its own; the food is cheap and awesome. Soba is a bit of an island specialty, and they serve it in a variety of ways, but it was mostly the preparation and seasoning of the food, rather than differences in the specific dishes, that made it all so enjoyable. 346345

The green bubbles above are umi budou (sea grape) , a really, really delicious, crunchy seaweed that was served as an entrée at a few of the restaurants. Apparently we are much too far north to be able to get it in Shiga (we have the nasty, petrol-flavoured, scraped-off-a-rock hajiki instead) but I’m already dispatching spies in Australia to hunt for it during their coastal and ocean photography missions.

Perhaps most importantly, we pursued our joint hobby of finding and irritating crabs of various species. The Yaeyama islands are the hermit-crabbinest place I’ve ever been, and we managed to aggravate individuals both large and small.336 337

We strongly recommend Ishigaki and the rest of the Yaeyama islands to homesick Australians and people who enjoy nature tourism. They also have a lot to offer people who enjoy a bit of luxury on a tropical island, but we didn’t do those bits, so if that’s what you’re into, you’ll have to Google it.

Kin is popping some more of our photos up in an album on our Facebook page, so click here for lots of pictures of furious crabs!



P.S. I’ve tried to avoid giving you a bunch of boring travel details, but if anyone is actually planning a trip and wants to know more about getting to or staying at Ishigaki, I’d be thrilled to share!

July was….

IMG_1085Swallows nesting EVERYWHERE.

IMG_5316Yakiniku dinners with our lovely new pan.

2013-07-04 10.06.27Tanabata wishes!

IMG_1224Some changes from green rice fields.

IMG_5290Crops of summer vegies from our balcony garden (the zucchini and beans have been especially great).

412406_399036620156026_1586376513_oEarly morning trips to (or from!) Kyoto.

IMG_1303Lots of cycling in the hills on our old Mama-charis.

sushiCool sushi dinners (with cool dinner beers)

IMG_5266Lots and lots of wasps and hornets!  We both like them, but everyone else seems to have a problem.

IMG_1109Nagahama folk just chilling until the weather cools back down.

July was warm, wonderful and full of quiet adventures. We said goodbye to so many friends, but we don’t feel sad; we’re grateful we met them (and are already looking forward to times when their travels take them to Oz)!

To all the new JETS, welcome! Here’s to August and the great times we’re going to have!

Gem and Kin


Surprises (NOT Kyuushoku Style!)

What a busy day! But all in nice ways. It’s late now, and I’m sitting at my desk, sipping a cold glass of mugicha and savouring the warm glow of knowing that the English cupboard is clean…. while trying to ignore the cold chill of knowing that the English ROOM is not….

I need to find a happy distraction! Luckily this has been a week full of wonderful discoveries.

Discovery 1 – Terrifying Tea Ceremony Lady isn’t scary at all when she’s at home!
Chelsie's Tea ClassHer hair still doesn’t move very much, though!

The Anglo-Saxon in the photo is Kelpie, our friend. She is now a level-one qualified teaologist, and is now permitted to fly solo (with the lower-level ceremonies).
Tea Ceremony has not been the stiff, difficult experience I was afraid of; it’s all turned out to be wonderfully gossipy and warm! These ladies are, of course, extremely beautiful in their movements (not to mention extremely kind about my maladroit efforts to imitate them) but they’re also super-cheery and happy to chat while we practice.

Discovery 2 – This little nest of gargoyles directly above the door of one of my favourite glass shops!
Baby swallowsIt’s summer in Nagahama and the swallows are raising their clutches in traffic lights, street signs and every other cranny they can manage to stuff mud into! I love watching the babies squeak and wheeze whenever anything comes near them (then collapse with exhaustion at the effort of holding up those enormous heads), but I love watching their parents even more. Swallows really seem to ENJOY flying, don’t they? The way they twist and swoop between the buildings to feed their asthmatic progeny is one of the more beautiful parts of summer.

Discovery 3 – This guy:
2013-06-16 14.38.10Within the peaceful-seeming collection of pots in my balcony garden, lurks this merciless predator, existing only to slaughter and consume.


Since the weather warmed up, my aphid problem has been getting ridiculous. I’ve been having to wash the lettuce four times before we can finally eat it, and the health of my plants has been badly affected. I prefer to be a lassaiz-faire gardener wherever possible, but I was actually getting to the point where I was about to mix up some soap spray and declare war on the little swine. Until my secret weapon appeared, in the form of that baby ladybeetle!

Like baby swallows, baby ladybeetles aren’t the most beautiful of young creatures, but no mother’s heart could have swelled with more joy than mine when I spotted that particular little one. Since then, more have started appearing and my aphid problem should be sorted in a matter of weeks.

Discovery 4 – I love Pilates!

I know, right? What’s next, Tai-Bo? Seriously, though, Pilates is the good stuff. I know I look fairly healthy (and, in general, am) but I have some long-term pain issues that sometimes put a fairly serious crimp in my efforts to be awesome. Basically, where your spine is supposed to curve in your upper back and neck, mine goes straight up and down; which makes my posture look SPECTACULAR at ceremonies, but which causes me a lot of everyday pain and is a big reason why I drink so much wine in the evenings.

In an effort to STOP drinking so much wine in the evenings, I’ve been working hard with a physio  for some months now, and at his urging, finally took a Pilates class.


Pilates is about gently stretching and exercising your limbs, while ripping the HELL out of your core. This might not seem applicable to my neck and shoulder issues, but basically everything you can do to strengthen your core will help with your overall posture. I need to keep working my neck and shoulders with the Physio, but I think it’s safe to leave my lower back and core in the hands of Pilates for now.

Discovery 5 – Tadpoles in the paddy fields.

IMG_1232Just in general, Kin and I both tend to be fairly strong tadpole enthusiasts. But before you dismiss our joys as irrelevant, be aware that there are good reasons for everyone to be happy to hear croaking coming from the rice fields at night.

Basically, pretty much EVERY environmental toxin kills frogs. Pesticides kill frogs. Herbicides kill frogs. Heavy metals kill or deform frogs. ARTIFICIAL FERTILISERS can kill frogs! Frogs are like a food canary, dropping off their perches wherever agriculture gets too poisonous.

I’m Australian. Anyone who has ever had to go through Australian Customs understands that we tend to be somewhat cautious about disease. And when I say “cautious”, really I mean “obsessively paranoid”. I’m not even kidding. If we could irradiate all guests and their luggage at an only barely sublethal level, we probably would, but we can’t because we’re also paranoid about radiation. We even tend to be fairly cautious about pesticide and heavy metal pollution, not because we pollute less than other people (we’re really not very virtuous), but because we have a lot of space and these things just don’t get a chance to build up as much as in other countries.  As a rural and an organic gardener, I’m probably even more paranoid that most.

But when you see FROGS sitting around in your food, you know it’s not as bad as all that. Sure, there’s probably a lot going on that I still don’t want to know about, but any lingering nasties are a lot less likely to be hanging around in water that has several generations of frogs sitting in it.

Discovery 6 – These lovelies in the hills around town!

IMG_1342Kin and I both adore berries and I always have an eye out for free food, so we were thrilled to spot these wild raspberries and alpine strawberries on one of our weekend bike rides. The flavour of the raspberries isn’t as sweet and full as that of our garden cultivars and there will never be any comparing these little wild strawberries to the real thing, but they were a light and refreshing reward for a very long, hot bike ride and a wonderful treat for a pair whose food budget won’t be able to stretch much further this week!

Discovery 7 – This beetle not only looks awesome, it SQUEAKS when you annoy it!

IMG_2443Seriously, it sounds like a furious rubber duck! Kin and I are going to hunt out as many of these guys as we can, and then we’re going to POKE every single one of them!

(Well, the kids are all going on holiday soon. We need SOMETHING to annoy!)

What surprises are in your world this week? How is winter treating the Australians out there?

Keep it happy,


June, 2013: Our Kyoto

We took our Aussie friends to town,IMG_1585
To play and play and play.
But once we all hopped off the train,
Our playful went away!

First we used our GPS,
And walked and walked and walked.
Our tired guests enjoyed themselves,
But weary feet soon balked.

Then we all hopped on a bus
And stood and stood and stood.
Hemmed in by sweaty, smelly folk
With elbows made of wood.

Now we’re wiser; we rent bikes
To fly and fly and flyIMG_1722
From Fushimi to Gion
And Shijo Shotengai

From Tofukiji we set forth
To Sanjusangendo.
We followed Kamogawa’s path
To party town Sanjo.

From here on in, I’m telling you
It’s true, it’s true, it’s true!
Cycling in Kyoto town’s
The only thing to do!


Okay, that’s something of an exaggeration; Kyoto is awesome, however you choose to hit it and the Kyoto buses (¥500 all-day passes FTW!) are definitely not the worst way to get around.

What’s NOT an exaggeration, however, is the COMPLETE awesomeness of using bicycles to get around the city. Kyoto has a large population, but it doesn’t really cover that much ground. It was built in a valley back when people still had to walk everywhere, so almost everything you’ll want to see is actually quite close to the centre of the city.

Kin and I have been hitting the Kyoto roads pretty hard lately (thank you, Google Maps!). We used to try and do one or two big things each time we went there, but the bikes have made the whole thing so comfortable and familiar that now we just hop off the train and sort of drift; hence the number of locations in the above (terrible) poem!


Our Kyoto

Is different every time! This week, we felt like a nice relaxing afternoon in the city. Nothing special, just a bit of shopping, a bit of a stroll, that sort of thing.

(If you’re suffering from travel fatigue and fancy a day like that, Kyoto has you covered.)

Most of our day was spent wandering in Gion and in the Shijo shopping district (a massive area which we still haven’t even BEGUN to explore, despite spending hours under its awnings). Kin was in search of art books, preferably second-hand, while I just fancied an amble. Even if you’re not much of a shopper, there is still an awful lot of interesting stuff in this area, and the ride to and from is simply lovely, whichever route you pick.

IMG_1537Kin found some excellent books while I admired the pretty ladies and earmarked some shops for more thorough investigation at a later date. Then, off we went to Sanjo!

Sanjo is a wonderful place and not nearly famous enough as a destination for visitors. Like most of Kyoto, it has some pretty solid history (involving the Shinsengumi), but if you’re a young party fiend, this is honestly the area you should check out on a Saturday night.

IMG_1666Kin and I are NOT young party fiends, but we have been befriended by several, so we’ve spent our fair share of time on the banks of the Kamo, sipping on beers and watching the street performers. Even if you aren’t in the mood for an all-nighter, watching the river after a long day’s touristing (even surrounded by this much activity) can be surprisingly restful.



I wouldn’t really recommend this itinerary for a non-local visiting the city, though, especially if you’re only dropping by for the day.

I will never give anyone orders about what should go and see in Kyoto, because it’s KYOTO. There are an incredible amount of different experiences available, which you should decide on based on the time available and your own tastes.



Cycling is simply the best way to tie those experiences together. It turns Kyoto into a CITY, not just a collection of locations. The cycling time feels more restful than its bus-based equivalent and makes for a much more relaxing time, with none of those low-blood-sugar-rushing-for-the-bus squabbles that are so easy to get into when travelling.

So, for those who are interested, I give you:

How To Experience Kyoto In This Most Perfect Of Ways

Man, I’m going to regret telling y’all this… There may never be a bike free again.

Okay, the way we do it is this: we get off the train at Kyoto station (if you have bags, you can rent a locker) and walk in a straight line for about ten minutes. Our destination is this place:IMG_1502


J-Hoppers is a hostel chain which, along with K’s House, we’ve had good experiences with. In Kyoto, we often don’t go there to stay, however, we go there because they provide the most awesome service ever: Rental bicycles! For ¥100 per hour (or ¥500 for the whole day and evening) your chariot awaits! There is a small amount of paperwork involved (just in case you’re actually a gang of international bike thieves). The bikes are pretty crappy, but are more than enough for city hopping. Just try to get one with a basket. You’ll thank me for that advice as soon as you buy ANYTHING.

If you don’t feel like walking that far, there are a lot of other options for renting cycles which are closer to the station; we’re just cheap and ¥500 is hard to argue with!

Then, choose a location on Maps (or download a cycling map), and off you go. Feel free to get sidetracked by the many wonderful things you’ll see on the way!

IMG_1522 L  Let me know about your trips in the area! Kyoto is always full of treasures and I’d love to see other people’s finds.

Happy travels!



© 2024 En Route to Awesome

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑