9 - 31 MAY 2010 (report in progress)

Kobe, May 10 - 15 and May 29 - 31

go to Kyoto, Hakone, Takayama, May 15-22

go to Hiroshima, Myajima, Okayama, Nara and Koyasan
May 22-29

! sometimes the link refers to a Japanese homepage,
you can translate such a webpage very easy by Google translation!

May 10 - 15

9 / 10 May
An enjoyable flight of 11 hours from Schiphol Amsterdam to Osaka.
The airport is situated on an artificial island
Manuels suitecase does not arrive. Through a variety of paper formalities we know to arrange that it will be brought to the house of Yasuko and Ryoji.
At the exit our Japanese friends are waiting, smiling broadly, with a sign in Dutch: "welkom", very nice.
First they bring us to the office where we get our rail pass.
Then a shuttle bus brings us to the port of the ferry to Kobe
In the ferry we can watch a video presentation about Kobe.

these photo's were made by Ryoji

in the ferry
welcome with pastries
After a long drive by car through the the bustling city we arrive in the outskirts of Kobe at the house of Yasuko and Ryoji. It is a nice house.
Of course before we go inside, we first have to put off the shoes and use the waiting slippers. A good habit we think.
We can use a nice bedroom, a living room and separate toilet.
Couldn't be better!
On the floor are nice tatami mats and the beds are wonderful.
Yasuko provided, very finely crafted special handmade Japanese "spring pastries" as welcome present. Low calories!
We hand over some of our gifts (some ceramics, and a specially made booklet), The gifts are welcomed with much attention.
From the beginning there was a good understanding between us all.
Yasuko and Ryoji really enjoyed explanations about our work.

spring pastries

beautiful appatizer
Then we get a shower and after a few hours sleep we have dinner at six o' clock . An artful appetizer and then sukiyaki (low calories) with meat, noodles and sugar!
The sake, filled up with water and lemon juice, is good.
After dinner we admire the travel photographs Yasuko and Ryoji exposed on the wall.
We think it is a nice idea, such a statement.
In a special cupboard are the pictures of parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren and all kinds of small articles of "emotional value".
From our "living" we see the coloured lights of the great suspension bridge that connects Kobe with Awaji Island.

May 11
This morning we could sleep till seven o' clock.
A "Western" breakfast with homemade bread, fried egg, sausages and vegetables.
We discuss the plan of the day and call the office at the airport if there is some news about our luggage. At that moment it is not yet clear whether it is already at the airport (there was a lot of lost luggage). But just before we leave the phone rings and they tell us the luggage will be brought at six o'clock.


It's rainy, but not cold.
This does not matter if you're in the car...
Ryoji is a good taxi-driver! Our goal is Tanba ware;
a pottery village.
We see beautiful flowering azalias in hedges and wild-growing wisteria, sometimes rising high up in trees.

village of Tanba ware

Japan and ceramics (in this case Tanba ware) belong together (think of the tea ceremony). There are a lot of ceramic kiln areas where they make their own kind of pottery (p.e Tanba-yaki, Bizen-yaki, Hagi-yaki).
Near the museum of Tanba is a large hall, meant for ceramic workshops
At the moment there are several school classes (Marineke likes this very much). About 60-80 children at once; only two or three accompanying teachers.
(This is possible in Japan, in the Netherlands it would be a big mess). Some of the uniformed pupils (this we also find a good habit) like to practice English with us.

workshop in ceramics

Yasuko and Manuel

Then we go to the museum.
Less is more.
A few pieces are displayed, but they are sublimely beautiful: some modern and some traditional ceramics.

traditional creramics

The modern art work is not really innovative, but the craftsmanship and dedication shines on it.
We see also posters about firing the ceramics in large traditional woodburned kilns.
They are impressive, sometimes 60 meters long. Cavities as a long train connected with each other, built with many heating vents and air holes with can be closed with round stones.
The village has many art studio's and shops; some of them have there own impressive kiln.

the kiln

more then 60 meters long

in the kiln

shrimps as decoration

a lot of wood is needed


lanterns of ceramic
In and around te garden there are all different lanterns:
a special project.

lanterns in the night

populair badger-dog
We try several places to pin money.
Finally, in a post office we succeed and it is clear that it is not difficult to pin in Japan: just go to the right place: the post office.
In a supermarket we buy our lunch:
rice packed in seaweed, with various additives as salmon, plum, shrimp or tuna. Pretty good and plenty.
We eat them on a bench near the museum.

Because the visit to the museum took a long time, Ryoji suggests just to look at the temple from outside (because we are going to visit many temples).
We ride along the Tojo lake, in which the temple is beautifully reflected. Too bad it's raining so heavily.

The hot springs in Arima appear to be closed for cleaning work, but the town is nice to look around.


famous cake
We try the famous cake made of sweet beans
filled with sweet beans

made of bamboo
We admire the art of bamboo products.
There are many beautiful handicrafts such as a woven basket from bamboo fibers (to make it takes years).

Marineke has afterwards regretted that she did not purchase one of those beautifully decorated brushes.

Arima Writing Brushes

We make some pictures of rice fields, huge wisteria and bamboo sprouts (we ate them yesterday).
At this moment of the year the bamboo is turning yellow, it is their autumn. In oktober it is spring for the Japanese bamboo.


rice field

rice fields

sumo fight on TV
Back home, the suitcase is brought + apology from KLM and a voucher for 25 euro discount on a next flight, anyway nicely.
We look at Sumo matches on TV
The various rituals take longer than the actual battle, the fight is often decided in just a few seconds. It's impressive to see how the giants tackle. When you see it you can not imagine the many years of training proceding the performance.
We eat salad, miso soup and Okonomyaki;
consisting of batter, cabbage, thin bacon and litter of dried bonito, covered with soy sauce and mayonnaise. The light sweet Japanese red wine goes good with the meal.
After dinner, we give other gifts (book and piece of paint from Manuel) and it's bedtime again.


May 12
Get up at six o 'clock.... today waits another great program.
After breakfast we take a walk through the neighborhood of Yasuko and Ryoji's house.
The beautifully maintained small gardens are notable; artfully pruned trees and shrubs and many flowers. It is a charming, peaceful suburb.

nice gardens

Kobe (Akashi-Kaikyo brug) bridge to Awaji
Along the gigantic Akashi-Kaikyo bridge we drive to the Awaji Island (a trip of about 1 ˝ hours).
The hills are well covered.
The young leaves of the trees have many different green tints.
We go to Minamiawaji where we will visit the Bunraku (puppet theatre) museum and theater.
Yasuko booked a show.
Because we have time enough, we climb to a viewpoint where we see Kobe, the inland sea and several islands.

agricultural area

inland sea


bridge to Shikoku

litlle island

local products
Before you get into the theatre you pass some kind of market, where you can get a lot of local products. Nicely exposed and very tempting to look at.
(onions, pastry, cake, sauces)

laughing boeddha

bunraku puppet
Bunraku theatre is very special. A large doll is moved by three people, and there is a band with vocals telling the story.
Osaka is famous for this traditional form of puppetry, but like everything in Japan it has to be performed in fixed times of the year.

bunraku puppet

4 tickets please

This month is no Bunraku month in Osaka.
But there is this museum on the island of Awaji, people come from far by car or in buses.
At a quarter to ten, we enter.
Fortunately, we're just between those buses and we are in a small group of about 15 people; so w
e can sit on the front seats of the theatre.


the theatre
In the theatre (where in showcases (ancient) doll masks and clothing are exposed), gives one of the puppeteers a demonstration of what a puppet can do. The dolls are half to three quarters of peoples high.

the mecanism
They have an ingenious kinetic mechanism that moves arms, hands and especially the facial expression features. Wonderful.
Then, the performance starts. The story is recited by a woman, half speaking half singing. Another woman accompanies her on a shamisen. The puppets, in this case a mother and a daughter, manipulated by two or three people per puppet. The players are entirely dressed in black; even with a black hood over their head. The dolls are alive, the players are nobody.


We don't understand any word of the story, but we get the emotions. Very pretty and impressive.
At the end we see some magnificent scenery.
Manuel buys a poster as a souvenir and Marineke buys a fan with head of a puppet.
The eyes can be opened and shut.


"Foods Paradise"
We have a lunch in "Foods Paradise", a kind of Mac Donalds.
It is a simple lunch, which soup, rice with fish and salad.
One meal is enough for two people.
The Otsaka museum (in the north of Shikoku) is really special. Ryoji parks the car on a big parking and a shuttle bus takes us to the museum. This museum is an experience in itself. Almost all the great masterpieces of the world (from Hieronymus Bosch to Picasso, from Rembrandt to Rothko, form the ancient Greeks to Warhol) are perfectly reproduced in ... ceramics.
Large tiles, good color, even with different expressions of strikes with paint.
Masterpieces that you rarely (if ever) see. They look real indeed.


Manuel explaining
The whole Sistine Chapel was reconstructed; also Scrovegni, and a triptych by Hieronymus Bosch. Furthermore Rembrandt, Goya, frescoes, mosaics.
Most work (e.g. the Mona Lisa) you can see a lot better, and much quieter than in their original positions, and you do not even have to travel the whole world over, you can just shoot them ....


paint strokes

There are around 1000 masterpieces, of course, to much to see everything.

Manuel proved to be a good guide.
He explained many paintings to Yasuko and Ryoji.
They themselves were also pleasantly surprised because they had not been in this museum before, neither in the Bunraku theatre.

Outside there is installed a whole panorama of Monet's water lilies.


bridge of Monet
Finally we go to the "whirlpool".
Under a big bridge (there are many bridges in Japan, but under these the ground wobbles in a certain way) can you see whirlpools, especially at high tide. A real crowd puller.
We walk through a corridor under the bridge to a viewpoint where you can see the movements.
We admire the construction of the bridge as well. There are glass panels in the floor where you can look down (gives a dizzling feeling).
The water changes continuously. It is fascinating.


construction of the bridge

walking over the whirling water
Back to Kobe, we go to a seafood restaurant. It is on the top floor of a shopping mall and overlooking the large bridge. There are some appetizers, miso soup, small salad, sushi and tea (and water) And a huge fish barbecue, with raw fish and other sea fruits like clams and shrimp. All food is roasted and cooked on the table. In the middle is a brazier. We see large shrimp roasted alive. It is hard to swallow those. The partial vegetarian in us will be ashamed forever. In the Netherlands you would pay a lot of money for meal like this. In Japan it is about 100 Euro (for four persons!).

May 13
First we go to the vegetable garden of Ryoji and Yasuko.
They have a piece of land in a nice allotment.
They divide the kichen garden very economically.
Potatoes, vegetables, onions, tomatoes, garlic, green beans (different varieties), yam and more.
They plant the vegetables on a small little plot.
So you do not have too much of them when they are ripe.
On a piece of land near his complex, grow strawberries.
A school class (kindergarten) has an excursion.
They will go picking strawberries.
Kobe is surrounded by mountains and high hills.
Today we will go to Rokko Mountain.
A beautiful ride.
Again a lot of different greens from trees and shrubs.

indicator board

We visit the Shinrin Arboretum, part of a national park.
A beautiful arboretum, with "departments" Europe, Asia, etc. There are also large rhododendrons and azaleas shrubs in full bloom. A wealth.


500 year old tree
In the museum a disc of an old tree is exposed.

Boards with the Latin names and descriptions in Japanese.

explaining board

television crew

We meet a television crew.
They make a recording of the beautiful flowering 'handkerchief tree'.
This tree blooms with large white flowers hanging down like handkerchiefs.

Later Ryoji makes a picture of the report on TV.


handkerchief tree

report on TV
A man with a camera with a large telelens takes pictures of birds.   Schoolchildren (primary school) greet us in English.

long-focus lens
practicing English

pond and mysterious roots


In a large pond with small leaved water lilies swim many carps and we see a lot of sunbathing turtles. Many irises in beautiful colour variations and yellow lilies.
A number of people (elderly) sit on stools and are painting in watercolours.


a lot to see

pont with purple irises

beautiful day

curry and beans
We enjoy this beautiful day in this wonderful environment.
In a teahouse, we share again a lunch (Japanese curry with beans).
It seems to be a popular dish in this area.

mt Maya viewpoint
We ride and climb to a vantage point on mt Maya to enjoy the view over Kobe/Osaka.
Phew, what a buildings.
Kobe and Osaka are grown together along the coast as large cities of millions of inhabitants.
The coastline here is narrow, that's why Kobe is so long.
The mountains rise just behind the city.
For lack of land citizens excavated pieces of mountains and built a number of artificial islands.
On these islands there are airports (Osaka International Airport, where we arrived) and Kobe airport for regional flights. There are also several ports (including ones for the ferries), and industries on these artificial islands.
view of Kobe

clean your hands
We go to the great Maya San Tenjo temple, dedicated to the mother of Buddha.
This Temple
was founded in 646. A beautiful complex with beautiful examples of traditional Japanese method of wood construction (without a nail or screw).
The temple is renovated and this has been done in the same traditional way of building.
It is nice to be with Yasuko and Ryoji.
They tell how to behave in a temple (talking softly, shoes off, covered dressed and bow or kneel for the main altar) and first purify.

Tenjo Ji
The main object of worship, a statuette of the Eleven-headed Kannon in pure gold, is said to have been made by the Gautama Buddha, Sakyamuni, himself and dedicated to his mother, Maya-Bunin. The Eleven Headed Kannon became the guardian deity of the people leaving along Osaka Bay and in the area surrounding this temple. In addition, it is thought to be a guardian deity of the sea, extending its protection from the summit of Mount Maya to the Osaka Bay spread out below.
It has long been customary for ships passing in the lee of the mountains to lower their sails while the people on board pray for safety on the seas.
The other statue is of Maya Bunin, the mother of Boedhha-Sakya-muni, similar to the Catholic Virgin-with-child. In the 9th century, the great Buddhist scholar Kobo-Daishi (also known as “Kukai”) went to study in China. He brought back to Japan an image of Maya-Bunin, who was worshipped in China as a guardian deity of women, and enshrined the image at this temple. She is worshipped as being able to save women from serious illness and suffering and is particularly famous throughout Japan as a deity of childbirth. For this reason, Tenjoji has often been described as women’s temple. It was the first temple in Japan to offer sashes that promised safe childbirth to the wearer.” (see Wikipedia and


Young monks calligraphy cards and pieces of wood to be sold as symbol which brings luck, good health etc..

In the garden is a camera crew trying to make pictures of a tit who made her nest in a box in which you put donation money.

A few days later Royji sees the article in the newspaper.

in the newspaper
Jizo statues of Bosatsu's (boddisattva's = someone who has achieved lighting).
A Botsatsu helps others, especially people who suffer, sick children and pregnant women.
Many statues have a slab, mainly for the salvation of died (and aborted) children.

with slabs

museum at the top
Again a viewpoint and then we go back home.
In the big supermarket near the house of Ryoji and Yasuko, we don't have enough eyes.
The enourmos amount of fish, fish in packaging, soy sauces, other sauces and innumerable unfamiliar foods. Overwhelming.
Everything looks nice, even the usual cans and bottles.
At home we eat a large meal with (again) many kinds of raw fish, miso soup, rice, mushrooms, horseradish, vegetables, sauces.
In short…, too many to mention and to eat.
After dinner we spent time talking about traveling and our family



Again a delicious breakfast with homemade bread.
Today we go to admire Himeji Castle: Himeji-jo.
It is the largest of the twelve remaining feudal castles in Japan.
It is beautifully situated on a hill.
The Japanese call it usually Hakurojo or Shirasagijo ("White Heron Castle")
The donjon with its whitewashed walls and gray roofs, is like a slow flight of a heron.
It's a samurai castle par excellence.

like a heron




Everywhere we see holes in the walls through which boiling oil, and stones were thrown.
The castle with special walls seems to be almost impregnable.

holes to throw oil


gardener prunes
We walk through the beautiful Japanese garden and we see how a gardener prunes a tree in model.
Via stairs we go up to the donjon.
We can not go inside because of restoration works.


the princess waiting and playing
From the outside it is impressive.
We can walk through a long corridor where we see the women's quarters.
At night this part of the builing was hermetically locked by guards.
We see the tower of Vanity where Princess Sen and other women stayed. Puppets give an impression of how they were doing.


There is also a very deep well.
A servant falsely accused, was thrown into it.
A "sad story" Yasuko says.
Everywhere we meet pupils in various age groups, they are polite and try to talk English with us occasionally. Ryoji encourages this.
In a shop we buy some postcards.
On many places you can stamp a paper when you visisted a historical object or a temple.

Marineke stamps the postcards.

get a stamp
There are also groups of very little children,
even in uniform,
with hats on and big school bags: cute.

big bags

walk and cycling path

In Japan there a only a few paths for cycling.
Most times you have to cycle on the walkway.

sharing noodlesoup

cable car
We take the cable car to the Engyo temple which is established on the Sosha mountain. (To see pictures push the 8th button on the home page of this link)
On the way up we see beautiful wooded slopes.
In the Fall (red colours of Japanese maples) would this be marvellous.
In the gondola a women from the cable car company tells a lot about the temple, the surrounding and other things, but we can't understand: it is in Japanese.

Situated on Mount Shosha, near Himeji Castle, Engyoji Temple is actually a sprawling monastic complex dating from the 10th century.

Offer a little and ring the bell.


The temple is the 27th on the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage

The upgoing entrance is flanked by kannon statues, beautifully decorated.
Most of them have many arms.
All with different arm and hand positions.

many arms


no nails

little statues with slabs
In the impressive main building we light a candle and an incense stick as a gesture to our Japanese friends.
Marineke strokes a statue on the foot, which should bring healing to her own feet (unfortunately, it does not seem to work).
Another building serves as a residence for priests and monks. There are religious objects, images and elements of the original building to see. This building is also restored using the old method of construction.

incense and candle

Outside a little tree for wishes, inside a beautiful ceiling.
Via a beautiful wooded lane, where we hear a lot of birds, we walk back to the gondola.


getting reserved seats

In the Kobe railway station we reserve seats for the coming weeks.
Pleasant that it is possible.


Japanese writing
"At Home" we see again some exciting Sumo matches on TV.
The food is delicious (traditional and low calories) and again completely different from previous times.
After dinner Ryoji shows us calligraphy and talks about the different writing systems in Japan.
He also demonstrates how this is processed on a computer.
We see our names in Japanese (Manuel because of the "l", must be changed in Manuer).
Kyoto, Hakone, Takayama May 15-22
Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Nara, Koyasan May 22-29
KOBE MAY 29-31

surrounding of Koyasan
May 29
Exactly on the scheduled time (17.00) we arrive at the house of our friends.
The reunion is warm.
Good to be here again.
We get a juice, have a shower and sort our luggage already a little bit.
Then we get a delicious tempura meal accompanied by a very tasty, this time cold, sake.
After dinner we drink green tea and taste the (potato-apple) pie.
We chat a bit an admire the new camera Ryoji bought.
We brought a gift, a nice wooden box with a secret way to open.
It delivers a lot of fun to search this proper way of opening.

tempura dinner

fresh strawberries
May 30
The weather is brilliant on our last day in Japan.
After breakfast Yasuko and Ryoji give us nice gifts: a beautiful wooden box to put tea or coffee into it, a beautiful silk case.


Other gifts are: a fine silk cloth and a nice assortment of typical Japanese (season) sweets.
We are very pleased with it.
Today we make a trip to a temple and have a footbath in hot water.

We pass a funny painted (like a giraffe) hoisting crane.

We visit the allotment
The vegetable garden looks fine.
Except the cabbage:

giraffe crane


little chat
Yasuko and Ryoji can harvest continuously. We have a chat with friendly neighbours.

that way
We ride to Taisanji; a temple area in the outskirts of Kobe.
There are old buildings, a garden, temples and a pagoda.
It is pleasantly situated in the lush green mountains that exhibit different colors.
It's very quiet, there are only a few other visitors.
(Quite different from the flow of tourists we saw last weeks).


the area
the area of Taisanji
the buildings



roof decoration

healing Buddha


main temple hall


things to buy
of course you can buy fortune presents, even a little schoolbag to have a good progress at school
things to buy

beautiful decorations
beautiful decorations

great constructions
great constructions

big frog
In one of the ponds we see big frogs.
nice bridge

temples in the woods
After we pass a typical Japanese bridge we follow a nice trail through the woods.
It leads to some small temple buildings.
We picnic in the shade.


nice atmosphere

For a few coins you are allowed to use a box for fortune telling.
When it says something with you don't like, you try another time, just till the moment you get a fortune you like.

Offering to the gods can be done by burning incence,

to get their help or protection.

nice little temple

fortune teller

burning incense sticks

bell tower
How to ring the bell.

Ryoji knows a place near the river where we can take some pictures from ducks.
Alas, there is only one duck and it flies away.

together is nice

no duck, just a crow
May be also the turtles think it is too hot to come out of the water, no one to see.

In a granite rock near a waterfall is
carved a very old statue.

We end this visit to the temple with a foot soak in warm water, nice and relaxing.

another temple

waterfall and pool

Fudo Myooh

warm foot bath

vital men
Ryoji talks with a noticeable vital man of 88 years.
There is a market stall with local vegetables, we recognize beans, lettuce, carrots, salicornia and rhubarb.

Ryoji parks the car in a huge carparking belonging to a giant supermarket.
There is even a exhibition of art. Yasuko orders a nice fish plate for dinner.


exhibition of art in the supermarket, Ryoji and a fish-dish

last dinner in Japan
At home, we pack our luggage and in the meanwhile Yasuko and Ryoji prepare again a beautiful dinner: our last dinner in Japan.

May 31
We get up at about four o'clock AM.
After a very early breakfast we check our flight and see that is delayed for at least five hours. We try to get information, but the Kansai Airport is still closed and we can not reach the KLM, se we have to wait till nine when Kansai information will be open.


yam tubers
Ryoji and Marineke go to the allotments to plant the yam tubers that Ryoji ordered by internet.
planting yam tubers

watering plants

taking pictures of ducks

bye bye house of Yasuko and Ryoji
We did not visit Kobe's harbour area, This is a good moment and good place to spend our "free time".
monument for emigrants

Menriken park

Menriken park and harbour
In Merikenpark are a number of monuments. An interesting area. Beautiful modern architecture.
One monument remenbers all the people from Japan who emigrated to other countries (many went to Brazil). On another memorial, we read the names of many famous movie stars.

Kobe harbour and skyline

having fun

in taking pictures

coffee and milkshakes
Along a Tivoli-style entertainment center, we walk to a cafeteria where we drink coffee and milkshakes.
Then we go to the ferry terminal to take the ferry which brings us to the Kansai airport. Marineke receives instruction from an elderly Japanese man how to juggle with strings (like she did before when she was young, fun to do).
The crossing by ferry is pleasant, there are many fishing boats (recreational fishermen Ryoji says).

At the airport the check-in runs without problems. Ryoji ensures that we receive a voucher (for lunch) from KLM a a excuse for the delay.
Then it's time to say goodbye. How can we thank Yasuko and Ryoji for the good time they provides us.
It was wonderful to stay with them. We really felt at home. We hope we will meet them again.
Because the security takes just a few minutes, we look for a place to use the voucher. Just a udon-noodle soup with a soda, more is not involved in it.
We fly at about half past three that means that we will be too late in the Netherlands to get our last bus. What to do? In the plane we are the only Dutch people, that's funny. The steward has contact with Schiphol.
He gets the message that we take taxi at the expense of KLM. (till now the money is not reimbursed).

ferry terminal

back to the overview