Mermaid at the Beach at Unohama Onsen

Mermaid at the Beach at Unohama Onsen

With so many spots still to explore in Japan (see our Hello Kitty map), we decided to take advantage of the newly extended Hokuriku Shinkansen to explore the formerly rather inaccessible Sea of Japan coast for a weekend getaway. The line has been extended from Nagano to Kanazawa. Since we had already visited both endpoints on former occasions, I was trying to decide on one of the places in between. But frankly, it seemed that none of them is touristically very developed. I first thought of Unazuki-onsen (it being a hot-spring resort), but then decided against it as the sightseeing railroad into the neighboring Kurobe Gorge has not yet reopened after winter. In the end, I decided on Unohama Onsen in Niigata Prefecture, because, again, hot springs. That the place is directly on the beach seemed another plus.
View of the Niigata Coast from Kasugayama

View of the Niigata Coast from Kasugayama

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Sakura-Chidorigafuchi-Tokyo-Reffert Sakura season has drawn to its close, hastened by a spell of windy and rainy weather here in Tokyo. But I still have a series of pictures from a few days ago, when the bloom was in its prime. It’s from one of Tokyo’s best sakura spots, Chidorigafuchi, along the Imperial Palace moat. Sakura-Chidorigafuchi-Tokyo-Reffert Continue Reading »

Japan-sakura3-Reffert Last year was the first time in five years we had missed the cherry bloom, and I’m so glad to be back for it this year! In this spirit, here comes another collection of close-up shots of the Sakura. Japan-sakura-Reffert Continue Reading »

Hanami at the Imperial Palace East Garden We’re back in Japan, and just in time for the main event of spring: it’s Sakura season in Tokyo! What else could we do but to go straight for Hanami? The necessary implements can be found easily: a blue picnic sheet, a seasonal bento box, and not to forget, some sake. And not just any sake, but special one with a sakura blossom inside! Hanami Bento and Sake This is only just the beginning, stay posted for more sakura posts…

Another year has passed and it is again time to wish my readers あけまして おめでとう, or a Happy New Year! 2015 is the year of the sheep in the Chinese Zodiac. As this time, we have not managed to go back to Japan before the New Year, I can’t as usual put up a picture of this year’s tenugui (see here and here for earlier years). But worry not, it’s not like we had to break the line (after all, we’ve bought already six consecutive versions of this tenugui) and wait another 12 years. The sheep is already waiting for us in Japan, where a trusty friend of ours managed to get hold of the last one they had at the shop! While last year, we’ve spent less time than usual in Japan, we’re planning to be there again in spring, hoping for many happy returns.

Japanese-Courtyard-Garden-autumn-leaves-Reffert With this tiny courtyard style garden, we’ve endeavored to create our own little corner of Japan in Switzerland. Some of the (smaller!) plants have come directly from Japan with us. And the Japanese maple (right) and Doudantsutsuji (center) are obliging with beautiful autumn foliage – perfect for a little bit of leaf viewing! Japanese-Courtyard-Garden-autumn-leaves-Reffert2

Japanese-food-products-Reffert Back when we lived in Japan, we’d arrive after a stay in Europe with a suitcase full of food that was hard to come by, such as cheese and Swiss chocolate. Now it’s the other way round. We bring an empty suitcase to Japan, just to stuff it full with food items to take home. Of course it is entirely possible to buy Japanese food abroad. (In Geneva, we frequent Uchitomi, an actual Japanese supermarket which also sells prepared foods.) But understandably, many items are ridiculously expensive, and you don’t have much choice. That special brand you’re looking for? Well, you have to bring it home from Tokyo yourself. So what exactly is it that we are lugging to the other side of the earth? As I am regretfully eying our shrinking stash of Japanese food, let me give you a list. Continue Reading »


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