Toyama #5: Kurobe Dam (黒部ダム)

On the Nagano side of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, a trolley bus through a tunnel will take you to Kurobe Dam. I was able to see the dam when I visited the Alpine Route (see my last post), but the dam is really at its nicest around June on when the snow melt feeds the lake, and water is released from the dam like in the above picture. Since I went in April, the dam is quiet. Also as I mentioned before, I forgot my postcards, so I couldn’t get a picture with the card and the dam anyway. Guess that means I have to go back in June…


The dam from the viewpoint above it, quiet without the release of the water


Walking across the dam, looking down toward the lake


The lake, still low until the snow starts melting in earnest

Toyama #1: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (立山黒部アルペンルート)

Two weeks ago, I traveled the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route to view the famous Snow Walls at Murodo. The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a series of many different modes of transportation taking you from Nagano’s Omachi area to Toyama through some of the spectacular mountains of the Japanese Alps. I began my journey waking up at 3:30AM and leaving my home at 4:00AM, driving to Nagano, and beginning the ascent up to Murodo on the first available departure. The Route starts with a trolley bus, then a cable car, a ropeway, and another trolley bus up to the highest point of the route. Heading down towards Nagano, you ride on a regular bus then a train, although I returned back the way I came to Nagano. You can read more about the route and my experience here.

Being a total idiot, I forgot the folder which had the postcards for Toyama and Nagano ready to go. So there are no postcard pictures this time. In my defense, it was EXTREMELY early when I left, so I was just a little tired.


Bus and people and snow walls


Past the pedestrian walkway


The highest point was 13 meters, not very tall this year unfortunately


Still, if you aren’t used to snow, it is pretty cool


Official information

Rather disappointing altogether, to be honest. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go back in a year when there is not only more snow, but also nicer weather!

Hiroshima #5: Makeup Brushes (熊野筆)

Hiroshima’s fifth postcard is of makeup brushes, called Kumano brushes or fude. Originally, the area of Kumano was famous for producing the brushes used in calligraphy, but when the demand for calligraphy brushes declined, the industry expanded to include makeup brushes of the highest quality. Kumano makes about 80% of the brushes in Japan, and most of the town is involved in the industry. If you’re in the city around late September, you can see the Brush Festival, where the used brushes are burned to thank them for their hard work. If you aren’t around then, though, don’t worry! Head to the Fude-no-sato Kobo Brush Museum to see how each brush is hand made and catch a glimpse of the largest brush in the world.

After feeling the brushes I saw for sale in Miyajima, I can say that they are unbelievable soft and well crafted, but you definitely pay for the quality! Maybe one day I can afford a set of these brushes…


Postcard and brushes

Hiroshima #3 – Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Okonomiyaki… how to describe this delicious dish? The word means basically “cook it how you like it” and refers to a sort of pancake type thing made with different ingredients depending on, well, what you like!

Okonomiyaki is famous in Hiroshima as well as the Kansai region, especially Osaka. Each area has a different style of making it. Instead of mixing it all together like in Osaka, Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is layered, and usually with noodles on the bottom then topped with lots of chives and a sweet sauce. Part of the fun of it is making it yourself on the table in front of you, and then trying to eat it with flat spoon type things before it burns. Talk about food with an effort!


Getting Hiroshima style okonomiyaki in… Yamaguchi. Oops.

Miyazaki #2: Prefectural Government Building (宮崎県庁舎)

Miyazaki’s second postcard features the prefectural government building in its unique style. It is built in the Neo-Gothic style which was based on castles and buildings in Europe. It was built in 1932 and is the fourth oldest government building in Japan still being used for its original purpose.

When I was in Miyazaki due to time constraints the only chance I had to visit was at night, so the picture isn’t terribly clear. It is also Miyazaki’s retired postcard, and I didn’t think to actually bring the postcard with me on the trip, so there’s no card in the picture either. Sorry!


Miyazaki prefectural government building

Next time I’ll go in the daytime, and remember to bring the postcard with me!

Hiroshima #2 – Rice Scoop with Carp Mascot (しゃもじ withカープ坊や)

WOW, long time no post! Sorry for seemingly abandoning the site… after coming back from my trip to Europe, I was both extremely busy with work, and waiting impatiently for the 8th set of postcards to come out. Work is still busy, the new cards still aren’t out, and here I’ve gone half a month without posting anything. So I’ll be doing a post a day for awhile to show I’m not dead! Here to begin is Hiroshima’s second postcard, combining rice scoops (shamoji) made in the area with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp Baseball Team’s mascot, Carp Boy.

Shamoji are said to have been developed by a monk living on Itsukushima, better known as the famous Miyajima near Hiroshima City. Now, these rice scoops are a household item throughout Japan, often of plastic these days, but also sometimes the more traditional wood. I guess just the rice paddle was too plain of a card, so a picture of carp boy was added. Hiroshima’s baseball team is… well, they’re not that good (sorry, Hiroshima). Mostly the reason is that they are actually the only team that’s not majority owned by a company, so the team is always short of money!

Anyway, when I visited Miyajima, I could see the giant rice paddle commemorating the humble beginnings of the shamoji:


Here we go… wow its big!


Without the postcard


You can take home one of these smaller ones. It’ll fit in your luggage better, for sure!

I probably should have bought one, but I don’t actually have a rice cooker so…

Kagawa #2: Olives (オリーブ)

In 1908, olive saplings were imported to Japan and planted in three places around the country thought to have the right conditions to grow them. The only one to survive was in Kagawa Prefecture’s Shoudo Island, and thrive it did in the sunny hillsides, so much so that now Kagawa is Japan’s number one producer of olives today. There’s an olive shrine on the island, a working olive grove, a museum, shops, restaurants, and even a bath house! There’s also an Olive Harvest Festival from October to November every year. If you like beef, you might try “Sanuki wagyu”, cattle fed on dried olives. And don’t forget to pick up some olive face oil when you visit! Mmmm, olives…

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!

Fukuoka #1: Mentaiko (めんたいこ)

Mentaiko is salted cod fish eggs marinated in chili sauce, and is a Fukuoka specialty. It originated in Korea, and is now popular all around Japan, especially in pasta or as filling for onigiri rice balls. I’ve had mentaiko in pasta before, and it is sometimes used as a topping for sushi rolls, but on the whole I’m not a big fan, so have never tried a big chunk at once like is popular in Fukuoka food stalls. My husband doesn’t really like it either, so I can’t count on him to eat it if I bought some for a picture, hence why I don’t have a picture for this blog. Maybe one of these years I’ll make it down to Fukuoka to take some pictures!

Blog News

So… I was really hoping the 8th set of postcards would come out around the same time as last year’s, but they have not. I’m leaving for a trip from tomorrow through the end of March so if the postcards become available during the two weeks I’m gone, I will not be able to update the blog until I get back in April. I do have some regular posts queued so there will be usual updates, just no new cards. So see you in April, and here’s hoping 2016’s postcards are worth the wait!