|Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog|
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com
This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.
2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
I spent about a fifth of the past year on report trips through Japan, on which I had the pleasure to ski in Hokkaido, witness the cherry blossom season start in Kyushu, cycle from Honshu to Shikoku, snorkel in Okinawa, bathe in the hot springs of the Tohoku region, admire the autumn colors in Kyoto and more. Below are my personal top 13 travel highlights of 2009.
Number 13: Mount Fuji with Cherry Blossoms
On a morning in mid April I got up at 3am to reach Mount Fuji around sunrise. The reward: breathtaking views of the mountain from the shores of Lake Kawaguchiko in combination with cherry trees in full bloom.
Number 12: Yokohama Skyline by night
A rather disappointing visit to Yokohama's underwhelming Y150 Expo was compensated by a wonderful evening walk along the city's waterfront, which is now more attractive than ever before thanks to the opening of additional public park areas. The highlight was the Minato Mirai skyline at night with a moon that appeared considerably larger to the human eye than on the photograph.
Number 11: Dinner on the Hokutosei Night Train
Rather than flying, we rode the Hokutosei night train to Hokkaido on one of our ski report trips early in the year. We enjoyed dinner in the train's dining car in an atmosphere that reminded me of Sean Connery traveling as 007 on the Orient Express (without the wine poisoning).
Number 10: Shimanami Kaido
The Shimanami Kaido is an island hopping road across the Seto Inland Sea, connecting Onomichi City on Honshu with Imabari City on Shikoku. On a beautiful day in May, we covered the 70 kilometers by bicycle, enjoying the nice scenery and interesting sights along the way.
Number 9: Shibu Onsen
Shibu Onsen in Nagano Prefecture is one of Japan's few hot spring towns, which have succeeded in preserving a wonderfully old-fashioned atmosphere. A little bit further up the valley, the famous local monkeys are enjoying the hot spring waters just like the humans do.
Number 8: Snorkeling on Ishigaki Island
Number 7: Hiking in Oze National Park
One day after the "Silver Week", a busy 5-day holiday in September, the usually crowded hiking trails of Oze National Park were deserted, the weather perfect and the autumn colors starting to shine. It was an idyllic day of hiking in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture.
Number 6: Kanto Matsuri
I personally find the reporting of festivals often to be stressful and tiring because of the crowds and the competition among photographers and onlookers for the best spots. The fascinating human performance and the visual beauty of the Kanto Festival, however, made me forget all the stress and fatigue. Simply awesome!
Number 5: Hiking Mount Akadake
One of the first autumn color reports of the year, the hike from Ginsendai to the peak of Mount Akadake in Daisetsuzan National Park was among the year's highlights both in terms of hiking and autumn colors.
Number 4: Gunkanjima
After our trip to the abandoned city on Gunkanjima, the mysterious island off Nagasaki's coast would not leave my mind and challenge my imagination for days to come. Certainly the most thought provoking trip of the year.
Number 3: Tsurunoyu Onsen
This is one of Japan's most outstanding hot springs. In the remote mountains of Akita Prefecture in northern Japan, Tsurunoyu Onsen offers beautiful natural baths with milky waters, and rustic lodging facilities that date back to the feudal age.
Number 2: Exploring the Jungle on Iriomote Island
With rented canoes we went to explore one of Iriomote's rivers, following the river deep into the jungle until it became too shallow to continue. We carried on by foot, exploring the network of jungle rivers, amazed by Japan's diversity.
Number 1: Autumn Colors in Onuma Koen
The year 2009 came with several moments of euphoria. But the best of them all I enjoyed on my early morning walk through Onuma Koen. I was alone in the park's idyllic autumnal landscape, when the retreating morning mist created a truly magical atmosphere.