Monday, 30 March 2015

The Kominato Line, Chiba.



 For the lyrics see here: http://www.jpopasia.com/lyrics/21990/ayumi-hamasaki/haru-yo-koi.html 

 Inspired by the video  above of Yumi Matsutoya's Haru Yo Koi, and with an ever abiding fondness for local trains, Friday was set aside as a day to ride the Kominato sen. I went on the first year I came to Japan, when Hiro & I went on a cycling trip through Chiba in the middle of summer (starting in the mountains.... what we were thinking...) I have little recollection of the train though.. the memories of salt patches from the copious amount of sweat remain vivid...

 Anyway, back to the Kominato sen... It's a one and sometimes two carriage train that starts from Goi on the west coast of Chiba. It used to be part of the JR network before the grand breakup in the 1980s and now it's a third party local line, like the much less profitable Akita Nairiku sen. Admittedly it was spring holidays and the flowers are out, but I was surprised, at least compared to the Nairiku line,  how many people were taking the train. They were mostly joy riders - but not all - and it's probably enough people to keep the line from being akaji (in the red). 
http://www.kominato.co.jp/

Like a lot of rural lines the Kominato line runs infrequently.   The second train of the day leaves Goi at 9:29.  The one after that at 12:36.  Planning is necessary, but there is still some scope for flexibility. The timetable below is a little misleading  - the arrival and departure times are noted as the same however the train stopped for a generous 4 minutes at Satomi station and many passengers got out to take photos.
GOI
09:29
12:36
0.0km

KAZUSAMURAKAMI
09:33
09:33
12:40
12:40
2.5km

AMAARIKI
09:37
09:37
12:45
12:45
5.4km

KAZUSAMITSUMATA
09:41
09:41
12:48
12:48
7.2km

KAZUSAYAMADA
09:44
09:44
12:51
12:51
8.6km

KOFUDAI(CHIBA)
09:48
09:48
12:55
12:55
10.6km

UMATATE
09:51
09:51
12:59
12:59
12.4km

KAZUSAUSHIKU
09:57
09:57
13:05
13:05
16.4km

KAZUSAKAWAMA
10:01
10:01
13:08
13:08
18.5km

KAZUSATSURUMAI
10:04
10:04
13:11
13:11
20.0km

KAZUSAKUBO
10:07
10:07
13:15
13:15
22.0km

TAKATAKI
10:10
10:10
13:18
13:18
23.8km

SATOMI
10:18
10:18
13:25
13:25
25.7km

ITABU
10:22
10:22
13:29
13:29
27.5km

TSUKIZAKI
10:26
10:26
13:33
13:33
29.8km

KAZUSAOKUBO
10:30
10:30
13:38
13:38
32.3km

YOROKEIKOKU
10:35
10:35
13:43
13:43
34.9km

KAZUSANAKANO
10:42
13:49

39.1km

You may notice that many of the station names are Kazusa....
Kazusa was the old domain name for central Chiba.
Wikipedia has a little more on it.
 
It's nanohana - canola - season on the line at the moment, and although we were too early for the sakura, and we didn't get as far as YoruKeikoku (we would have but for the fact we believed a road sign over google maps...) the nanohana and bucolic charm of the line made for a very relaxing day out.  The missed turn wasn't in vain either as we had the good fortune to meet a very hospitable local who invited us in for coffee!

Yorukeikoku is probably the most "famous" place in Chiba for autumn leaves and it's a good excuse to go back.  Next time, perhaps taking the Kominato line to the end and changing to the Isumi line train which goes through to the Pacific coast.


Most of the line is single track, with a few stations where trains can pass.
We backtracked to Kazusa Tsurumai
We met this groups of sketchers earlier in the day at Tsukizaki.  Sketching is a popular hobby in Japan. It's quite common to see primary school children out in the neighbourhood sketching.
Perhaps practice is the reason, but I have no doubt the average Japanese person is more skillful
at drawing than the average Australian. In fact, I rarely meet people here who say "I can't draw".
It's a bit like saying "I can't walk" - everyone can do it unless they have a certifiable disability.
Canola looking beautiful against the clear blue sky.
Kazusa Tsurumai
At Tsukizaki station - a map for hiking in the Yoru Keikoku area
Kazusa Okubo
The canola on this line is more like floral decoration. In Australia people plant it in huge paddocks.
I assume the variety in Aus has been altered to allow for more oil production.  Here it seems to be more commonly eaten as a green vegetable. The flower seems to be proportionally much less.
Tsukizaki. A large group of photographers gather to greet the train. Some of the crowd had obnoxiously unnecessary tripods - I came to understand why some places ban the use of tripods.
Tsukizaki station
Tsukizaki station

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Hanami 3: Yanaka cemetery spot the difference.

Yanaka cemetery sakura 2015


Yanaka cemetery sakura 2010


answer to follow

Hanami 2

Hanami is associated with sakura, but there are so many flowers out...and they tend to get overlooked in the midst of sakura excitement.
I can really understand why people get excited about springtime.
Last week in Ochanomizu

Daffodils near Ochanomizu

Local flowers... that I forget the name of..

Chrysanthemum of somesort

Near Ochanomizu


Local Sakura today
Local Sakura

Ueno Park sakura



Hanami 1 Kanda Myojin

By a stroke of immense good fortune (as opposed to good planning) we stumbled  upon the garden at Kanda Myojin today. I haven't been there in sakura season & it's a hidden gem. 
Downstairs ... a very ordinary carpark and vending machine / smoking area.
Upstairs you can hardly imagine you're
10 mins walk from the bustle of Akihabara.

Unlike a lot of hanami places, it's not mono species.
The various japonica, peaches etc make it
a colourful delight.


A particularly striking peach.




Pathways through the garden






Not Kanda myojin, but perhaps Suwa Temple
- I didn't' note the name but it's between Nishi Nippori
and Nippori along the train tracks.

Kanda Myojin is one of Tokyo's most famous. There are some very good websites dedicated to it. This is arguably the best:
http://rurousha.blogspot.jp/2014/11/the-ultimate-guide-to-kanda-myojin.html

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Japan Prefecture Quiz


At the moment I'm preparing materials for the coming semester. I'm taking CLIL (content language integrated learning) type classes including one that's focused on tourism in Japan.  Lesson one - to get into the groove... do they know where Japan's prefectures actually are.  And what is something "famous" about each prefecture. And, how many have they been to.  I have no difficulty identifying the locations of the 47 prefecures, but I have been to only slightly over half*: 

1) Hokkaido, 2) Aomori 3) Iwate, 4)Miyagi, 5) Akita, 6)Yamagata, 7)Fukushima (note it's a very large prefecture, much bigger than a nuclear plant) 8) Ibaragi, 9)Tochigi, 10)Gunma, 11)Saitama, 12) Chiba, 13) Tokyo, 14) Kanagawa, 15) Niigata, 16)Toyama, 17. Ishikawa, 19) Yamanashi, 20) Nagano, 21) Gifu, 22) Shizuoka, 23)Aichi, 25) Shiga, 26) Kyoto, 28) Hyogo, 29)Nara, 34, Hiroshima.

Which means I still haven't been to
18) Fukui, 24) Mie,  27) Osaka, 30)Wakayama, 31)Shimane, 32) Tottori, 33 Okayama, 35) Yamaguchi, 36 Tokushima, 37 Kagawa, 38) Ehime, 39)Kochi, 40.)Fukuoka, 41) Saga, 42) Nagasaki, 43) Kumamoto, 44)Oita, 45) Miyazaki, 46.) Kagoshima, 47). Okinawa.

*Going to means going somewhere there walking around, not just passing through on the train. 
At the moment, the political situation in Okinawa is very interesting... very tense. I think that's the highest priority of the places I have yet to visit.