Kumamoto #7: Watermelon (スイカ)

Kumamoto is the highest producer of that quintessential summer fruit, the watermelon, and its 7th card reflects that. Anyone who has tried to buy watermelon in Japan knows it’s a pretty expensive fruit. It is hard for me to justify the price when I know just how cheap and big they are back home, but I can never resist… it’s my favorite fruit! (Well, one of them anyway!)

When I was in Kumamoto last summer I didn’t have the chance to look around for any watermelon to buy, but I did find watermelon soda for sale, and grabbed some to try. I’m not sure I’d buy it again, but it was almost as refreshing as an actual slice of watermelon.


Postcard and the watermelon-themed cooler the drinks were kept in

This summer I will have to see if my local supermarket gets in any Kumamoto watermelons to take a picture with. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to eat them again!

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Aomori #7: Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)

In Aomori on the We Love Japan Tour I got to visit Hirosaki Castle at the end of the day. Only…


Whaaaat? Where did the castle go?!

Right now they are renovating the walls, so they moved the castle to the middle of the park!


Oh, here it is!


They are not finished moving it yet…

The castle will be moved to the middle of the park within a month or so, then the renovations of the walls should be until 2016. For reference, here’s a picture of what the castle used to look like:


Hi!

You can read more about the castle (and the renovation work) here. Hirosaki castle is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot; unfortunately, I’ve never made it to Aomori during spring. Maybe one year!

Hokkaido #7: Former Prefectural Gov’t Building (北海道庁旧本庁舎)

I am happy to report that I have finally made it to Hokkaido through the We Love Japan Tour 2015! You can read about my travels through that link, but in between Noboribetsu Onsen and Nibutani, I took a quick detour to Sapporo. I got to see the famous Clock Tower, so I updated that post with some pictures if you’d like to look. I also got to see the Former Prefectural Government Building, with it’s beautiful red bricks done in American-style architecture. You can read a bit about it here.


Building and postcard


Welcome to Sapporo!


The building’s brand


Looking outside

I enjoyed my brief visit to Sapporo and hope I can go again soon!

Miyazaki #7 – Cape Toi (都井岬)

Howdy! Long time no post, right? I’ve just gotten back from a wonderful trip to the Southern Kyushu prefectures of Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kumamoto, and had a ton of fun! …and of course, bought postcards! I’d like to start off my posting spree with my favorite of the entire set I bought: Miyazaki Prefecture’s 7th postcard Cape Toi, and the wild horses that inhabit this rural and beautiful area!

These horses, called Misaki-uma, are thought to be the wild descendants of army horses that were left to graze and became wild over time. “Wild” being a rather strong word of course… when walking through the horses, they basically treat humans as a tree or a bird and give no care that you’re there taking pictures! Because of that, it’s easy to get up pretty close to them! They have officially been designated a National Monument and are protected. Entering Cape Toi requires a “donation” of 400 yen, which goes to the upkeep of the horses and their environment.


Horses!


I crept a bit closer, but this is as far as the horse would go when it came to posing!

The cape area was truly, truly beautiful and the highlight of the trip. Besides the wild horses, there were dozens and dozens of hawks and birds spinning through the air, and the green hills were something right out of The Sound of Music! I may or may not have started singing at one point.

When visiting the Cape, don’t feed the horses any people food (yes, even carrots or apples are a no), and be careful when going through the horses in case they kick!

Cape Toi is pretty far and is best reached by rental car. You can read more about it and how to get there here.

Also around the Cape area is a lighthouse you can enter, a shrine built into the rocks right by the ocean, and some distance away a small island full of wild monkeys you can take a ferry to. It’s a wonderful area, and well worth a visit!

Okayama #7: Kurashiki Traditional Buildings (倉敷美観地区(倉敷考古館と中橋))

Today’s postcard is from Okayama Prefecture, and features the old traditional buildings in Kurashiki’s Bikan District. This old merchant district features a beautiful canal lined with striking white buildings with black accents, as well as several Western-style buildings. The building featured in the postcard is the Archaeological Museum and the bridge leading to it. It’s a truly wonderful area, and I recommend a visit to anyone passing that way!


Building and postcard


A canal tour boat heading under the bridge

You can read more about Kurashiki and its historic buildings here!

Yamagata #7: Ball-Shaped Konnyaku (玉こんにゃく)

Hey everyone! We’re in the middle of summer here in Japan, and temperatures in my little corner are reaching 37C/98F during the day, and sometimes higher! It is HOT! Today, I’m looking north a little to a popular food in Yamagata Prefecture called “tama konnyaku”. Actually, Gunma is famous for konnyaku too, but not the ball-shaped variety. This kind is shaped into balls and boiled in soy sauce and sugar. They can be found all around the prefecture, but at Yamadera Temple they are called “chikara konnyaku”, or “power konnyaku”, supposedly giving you enough energy to climb the many stairs up to Yamadera!

I find this ironic, as konnyaku has hardly any calories at all.

I visited Yamagata last spring, so this card wasn’t available at that time. I haven’t gotten it yet, but it’s on my “to buy” list! Here are some pictures I took in Yonezawa, Yamagata, and at Yamadera:


A tama konnyaku stand at Uesugi Shrine in Yonezawa, Yamagata


“Popular item! POWER konnyaku!” at Yamadera Temple, Yamagata


They weren’t bad tasting, actually!


And just for fun, a shot of Yamadera. I guess I made it up, so the power konnyaku really works! …maybe.

If you can find konnyaku (also called konjac and similar) at a grocery store, you can try making them using this recipe (and feel free to leave off the squid). Otherwise, hopefully you can visit Yamagata to try these yourself. Happy eating, and stay cool!

Edit 2015.11.13: I made it again to Yamadera in October, and took some new pictures with the card! Check it out:


Postcard, pot, and konnyaku, yum!

Nara #7: Goldfish Scooping (金魚すくい)

Today is my city’s summer festival! … it is also right during a typhoon. I’m hoping the rain will stop long enough for me to go and enjoy walking around, try all the yummy festival foods, and play games before watching tonight’s events but, well, I’m not holding much hope for that. But since I can’t be outside enjoying the festival right now, I’ll tell you about a festival themed postcard instead!

Nara’s 7th prefecture pictures the interesting “kingyo sukui”, translated to “goldfish scooping”. What, exactly, is goldfish scooping!? It’s a popular summer game involving using a paper-covered scoop (called “poi”) to try to grab a goldfish out of a small kiddie pool. Since the scoop is paper, it dissolves quickly, making it difficult to grab your favorite goldfish before you lose your chance! If you do win, they’ll bag up your goldfish so you can take your new pet home.

This game is played at every festival across Japan, but Nara’s Yamatokoriyama City is where the National Goldfish Scooping Championship is held. This year’s event is on August 23rd (it is always held on the 3rd Sunday in August) and you can read a little about it in English on the official City Event page here (scroll to the bottom).

Goldfish scooping can be seen at summer festivals throughout Japan, nestled between food booths, and each go is usually around 300 yen. Yamatokoriyama City has many goldfish farms and is known for their high quality breeding, and every year in April, there is an exhibition at the Yanagisawa Shrine in Yamatokoriyama City where breeders and collectors can mingle.

Edited to add: At my local festival (yes I finally went out), there was a goldfish scooping booth! Here are a few pictures:

And speaking of Goldfish, although this has nothing to do with goldfish scooping, right now in Tokyo and Hiroshima (and Milan!), the famous Art Aquarium goldfish exhibit is going on! If you’re a fan of goldfish, this is a great exhibit to see! Please check here for more information. Finally, goldfish in general are a popular summer motif in Japan, so it’s easy to find goldfish themed… well… anything!

A quick note: It may be tempting to try goldfish scooping for yourself, but please remember goldfish are living creatures, and to have a plan if you do get some! You can always give them back to the booth if you don’t have the ability to take care of them, but DON’T DUMP goldfish into ponds, rivers, or sewage systems! Please scoop responsibly!

Nagano #7: Zenko Temple (信州善光寺)

Nagano’s 7th postcard features Zenkoji, one of the most important and most popular temples in Japan. It stores the first ever Buddhist statue brought to Japan, and a replica of that statue is shown once every 6 years. This year happens to be the year the statue is shown to the public, and besides releasing 2015’s Nagano postcard of the temple, postacollect has also released a few other special postcards I’ve blogged about here and here. You can read more about the temple and current events here.

I’ve never seen the statue, but I’ve been to Zenkoji a few times. As the weather is currently beautiful, I may start campaigning my husband to head out there on the motorcycle on some of our free days this month! If I manage that, I’ll update this entry with some new pictures! Meanwhile, here are a few from my previous trips there:


Niomon Gate leading into Zenkoji


Zenkoji’s main temple building. The sacred statue is housed below, and visitors can navigate the pitch-black corridor it’s stored in to walk by it… without seeing it, of course!


A line of Jizo Bodhisattva


Zenkoji Goshuin or calligraphy, another thing I collect!


The area around the temple has many shops, restaurants, and lodgings to choose from. It is a fun area to explore!

Fukushima #7: Miharu’s Waterfall Cherry Tree (三春滝桜)

I rely on these postcards a lot, and I wish this card had come out last year… I was in Fukushima around this time, and the cherries were spectacular! If I’d known to go see Miharu’s famous waterfall-like cherry tree, I would have pictures to post for it now. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it, so I didn’t get a chance to see it!

Anyway, Fukushima’s newest postcard features the famous waterfall cherry tree in Miharu. It’s considered by many to be the most beautiful tree in Japan, and is over 1000 years old. Due to its popularity and beauty, it is perhaps the most-visited single tree in Japan!

For those interested in visiting to see it, this is the month! You can find more information on how to get there here.

Cherry Blossom Season

Ahhh, Spring has sprung! A number of exceptionally warm days has heralded the start of the sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, and blooms have popped open on trees like popcorn, seemingly overnight! It feels like only yesterday it was cold and miserable, with the plums barely starting. Now it is a huge change!

Today I bring you another Postcard Element Post, this time highlighting everyone’s favorite flower! It seems to be postacollect’s favorite too, as we have a whopping 6 postcards featuring or containing sakura!

Aichi #4: Inuyama Castle (犬山城)
Nara #4: Mt. Yoshino Cherries (吉野山の桜)
Shizuoka #6: Mt. Fuji Hongu Sengen Shrine (富士山本宮浅間大社)
Aomori #7: Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)
Fukushima #7: Miharu Waterfall Cherry Tree (三春滝桜)
Kyoto #7: Ryuuan Temple Rock Garden (龍安寺石庭)

And a close up of the real thing:

I hope you can enjoy these beautiful flowers!

(Also, apologies for posting this a day late!)