Dobbs Away II

Joined April 2017
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  • Day517

    Magome

    October 5 in Japan

    While some may find Magome too perfectly restored, we loved this small, charming village built on a hillside with great views over nearby rice fields and mountains.
    Today, it’s full of restaurants, ryokans and souvenir shops, but still manages to help you imagine what it must have looked like hundreds of years ago. We think it may be the cutest town we’ve seen in Japan. And while tiny, we managed to spend an entire day wandering around the shops and sitting in cafes. After about 5pm the tourists cleared out so we felt like we had the town to ourselves.
    Because we had the freedom of a rental car, we decided to drive to nearby Nakatsugawa - the town where John was posted 24 years ago. My how it has changed! A huge shopping mall, free wifi and many new buildings make it feel so much more cosmopolitan than it did in the 90’s. Though visiting John’s old apartment and school, where he taught, showed us that some things have become a bit run-down.
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  • Day515

    Kiso Valley

    October 3 in Japan

    After saying farewell to Rowena, we picked up a rental car to drive further into the mountains.
    For our anniversary, we splurged on a nice ryokan with a beautiful onsen (thanks Carol, for the recommendation). Apart from soaking and enjoying some indulgent meals, we walked part of the Nakasendo Trail between Tsumago and Magome. This part of the trail is one of the best restored sections of the centuries-old path that connected Tokyo to Kyoto via post stations. It was a charming walk that was busy with day-hikers, though it never felt over-run.Read more

  • Day513

    Takayama

    October 1 in Japan

    When we lived in Japan, we’d both visited Takayama separately. Christy remembered it as a very small, hilly town (which it wasn’t) and John remembered it as a fairly large city (which it turns out, it is).
    While it’s a biggish city, there are several blocks of well-preserved, old houses in the center. In the nearby hills there were many, many temples and shrines - making for a very nice walk along the Higashiyama path.
    Staying at a ryokan meant we had access to colorful yukatas. Even though the summer season popular for parading through the town dressed in these “outdoor” yukatas was technically over, we didn’t hesitate to dress-up and walk through the town. We enjoyed it so much, we even wore our yukatas out to a fancy dinner after being assured by our ryokan hosts that it wasn’t too odd.
    What was very odd, was a meal we had at a small gyoza restaurant, where the chef blasted death metal music, insisted every visitor draw a picture representing their home country, and was particular about many, many things, but cleanliness wasn’t one of them. Fortunately, the gyoza were delicious, though we tried not to pay attention to the black build-up on the fryer.
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  • Day507

    Kanazawa

    September 25 in Japan

    We’re so grateful to have had friends and family meet us at various points during our travels. It was great fun to meet up with our friend, Rowena, in this fantastic part of Japan.
    A second typhoon made for some unpredictable weather, but we were lucky that it didn’t disrupt our enjoyment of this wonderful city and it’s surrounds. Both of us wished we’d been stationed in Kanazawa when we lived here as it seems the perfectly sized city that has all the modern conveniences, but also beautifully preserved historic sites, green spaces, and is also near the ocean and mountains.
    To more easily visit the Noto Penninsula, we rented a car and were able to enjoy some stunning coastal scenery and a surprisingly good French meal in the small coastal town of Wajima.
    On another day, we drove to the UNESCO World Heritage villages of Gokayama and Suganuma - famous for their well-preserved Gassho-style houses with “praying hands”-shaped, thatched roofs.
    The remainder of our time, we walked through the samurai and geisha districts, the castle grounds, and incredible garden of Kenroku-en, and through the busy food market – making sure to stop and eat many delicious foods along the way.
    Rowena loves Japanese sweets (wagashi) as much as we do, so we took a class on how to create some decorative red and white bean treats. Our results were pretty amazing, if we do say so ourselves. Yum!
    We also managed to have a very amusing experience at a reflexology “spa”, where staff were confused by Rowena being Asian, but not speaking Japanese or Chinese, and Christy quickly learned to tell the therapist in Japanese not to poke her feet so hard. Ouch!
    Special thanks to Rowena (and Marc’s phone) for (temporarily) improving the quality of our blog photos.
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  • Day506

    Sapporo

    September 24 in Japan

    After an all day drive back to Sapporo, we stayed overnight before our flight to Kanazawa – which fortunately gave us an opportunity to eat at the delicious conveyer belt sushi restaurant one more time. YUM!

  • Day503

    Kawayu

    September 21 in Japan

    This part of Hokkaido felt fairly remote and was populated with sprawling farms, many large and small crater lakes, and more onsens.
    The ryokan we were staying in didn’t have a bath so we had to go a few hundred meters down the road to the local public bath for ablutions – group nudity always creates an interesting cultural experience.
    We’ve been told many were scared off after the earthquake and cancelled their reservations so we’ve seen very few tourists here. Apart from indulging in onsens, we drove to several lakes and the coast to enjoy some very nice walks through the forest, near volcanoes, and along the shore. We also enjoyed a visit to the Peoples of the Far North Museum, which had an excellent collection of artifacts from the indigenous people from Alaska, Hokkaido and Russia. Hokkaido has been every bit as beautiful as we hoped.Read more

  • Day500

    Utoro

    September 18 in Japan

    An easy 6 hour drive through more scenic rice fields, dense forests, and along a rocky coastline took us to the small fishing village of Utoro.
    The area is famous for onsens and the remote national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shiretoko. This peninsula, which has no roads through most of it, preserves a wilderness teeming with bears in the summer. We ventured to the end of the road on both sides of the peninsula and were rewarded with beautiful coastal, volcano and forest views, but no bears. Pink salmon were running up the rivers and streams, so we very much enjoyed watching the ritual struggle upriver to lay eggs.
    On our last night here, we visited a fancy hotel onsen as day visitors. We had it all to ourselves and loved the incredible views over the harbor from the pools and sauna.
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  • Day497

    Asahikawa

    September 15 in Japan

    After picking up our rental car, we drove a few hours through the beautiful farmland of Hokkaido to the city of Asahikawa. Driving here is pleasant and easy as there aren’t many people and the speeds are slow (50km max, though most drivers ignore this limit which seems far too low for the excellent road conditions). Our rental car was tricked out with lots of driver feedback – including telling us “Overspeed detected. Please drive safely”, “Sudden deceleration detected. Please drive safely”, and incessant beeping if we happened to cross the center or shoulder lines.
    While we missed the peak summer flower season, we still found some beautiful fields of flowers nearby Biei and Furano. We were also a bit early for the leaves changing, but still enjoyed a soggy and scenic hike up to Mount Asahidake where the volcanic and alpine landscape was stunning. Luckily, we could catch a gondola back down so were able to save our knees hurting or our shoes getting too muddy. Stumbled across a cute café for lunch, where they baked their own bread and used local, fresh ingredients.
    This area is famous for skiing and onsens (hot springs), and would be (even more) stunning in winter.
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  • Day494

    Otaru

    September 12 in Japan

    This small town on the coast is famous for its’ seafood, historic stone buildings and a very scenic canal. We really enjoyed our brief time here walking along the canal and a pretty path along the old railway line, drinking local beer and sake, and admiring the beautiful, old buildings that lined the quaint streets and alleys. Glass making is a local specialty and a very good museum highlighted some of the world’s best glass making traditions, including an amazing display of Tiffany glass (which we weren’t allowed to photograph, unfortunately) displayed in an impressive old, stone bank.Read more

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