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Japan-Tokyo-Kyu-Asakura-House-Reffert Just one subway stop away from the ever crowded Shibuya Crossing (also known as the Shibuya Scramble), an oasis of calm can be found in Tokyo: the Kyu Asakura House (旧朝倉家住宅), former residence of the Asakura family in Daikanyama. The house, built in 1919 is nearly a century old and is surrounded by a wooded garden which slopes down the hillside. Japan-Tokyo-Kyu-Asakura-House-Garden-Reffert Continue Reading »

Tokyo-Meiji-Shrine-Inner-Garden-Iris-Reffert Inside the forest surrounding Meiji Shrine, there is a separate garden, the Meiji Jingu Gyoen, which holds a special appeal in June. With the advent of the rainy season, its 150 different kinds of iris which emperor Meiji had planted for his empress explode in bloom.
Japanese-Iris-Reflection-Reffert Continue Reading »

Satsuki-Azalea-Bonsai-Reffert-9 There is always something going on in Ueno Park on the weekends, and last weekend, we happened onto the Satsuki Festival. This festival is dedicated to Bonsai of the Satsuki Azalea, the best of which were on public display. Satsuki-Azalea-Bonsai-Reffert-3 Continue Reading »

"Photographing" the Temple of Heaven - a new friend - Snapshots

“Photographing” the Temple of Heaven – a new friend – Snapshots

Can or should you bring your small children on a trip to Beijing? We have recently spent a week there with our toddler daughter, so here are my two cents. One concern is certainly the rampant air pollution, which has been all over the news during the last two winters. While for me, this excludes a visit in winter, in summer matters are much better. Spikes in the pollution levels do occur (aqicn.org offers hourly updates), but they often last only a few hours and can be worked around. Windy days (after the first dust cloud has blown off) even offer quite good air quality. We found however the very high temperatures quite challenging and ended up spending more time indoors with our daughter than we would have hoped for (we seem to have been especially unlucky, but maybe one should rather aim for earlier in spring or autumn instead?). Continue Reading »

View across Kunming Lake to Longevity Hill (Summer Palace)

View across Kunming Lake to Longevity Hill (Summer Palace)

On our way to Japan, we recently spent one week in Beijing. Due to circumstances (chiefly the facts that the Chinese Academy of Sciences is located very far away from most sights, and that we hit a hot spell with up to 41 degrees C), we were only able to see two of the major sights, namely the Summer Palace (the only sight relatively close to us) and the Temple of Heaven in the center of town. These, however, are truly impressive.
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven

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Reffert-Japanese-food-tempura-renkon As I am getting mentally ready for our next trip to Japan, I am starting to fantasize about all the food I’ll be eating there. What does one eat in Japan? Sushi, tempura, sure. But these are just the stereotypical choices the whole world knows about. There are many small food items and snacks I am missing when I am out of Japan. Since I have a sweet tooth, things like Dorayaki and Daifuku mochi are coming to mind. And sofuto cream (soft serve ice cream), in particular the typically Japanese flavors of matcha and black sesame! But I will be also totally eating Japanese veggies like edamame, renkon and daikon. I am looking forward to red miso soup, and am even craving some yakisoba. For snacks bought at street stalls, also mitarashi dango is on my list. And nikuman! And a nice cold Asahi Clear beer! Which of course makes me think of senbei, arare and beika (rice cracker based snacks that are often consumed with beer). Continue Reading »

Missing the Sakura

Shidarezakura For the first time in six years, I am missing the cherry bloom in Japan. Not like spending time in Southern California is a bad thing, but I can’t help feeling pangs of regret thinking of the fluffy clouds of white and light pink adorning Japan in this moment. All I can offer this year is a link to my Sakura Archives

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