Dorxi Travel

Getting to Know Japan With Haikus

The wind from Mount Fuji
I put it on the fan
Here, the souvenir from Edo.
Basho Matsuo
Haiku poet (1644-1694)

Being Catholic, I didn’t realize that Mount Fuji was a sacred mountain for the Japanese who are mostly Buddhists. To them, Mount Fuji is the home of the great kami-sama or gods. They believe it is a mystical gateway between heaven and earth. Pilgrims would climb Mount Fuji’s 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) to reach the top and read haikus while contemplating the scenery. In literature, a haiku is a poem usually containing three unrhymed lines, which have 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively. A haiku presents a pair of contrasting images, one suggestive of time and place, the other a vivid but fleeting observation.

I can understand the sentiment of the Buddhists. Even for Catholics, a high mountain is the closest place on earth to pray to God in heaven, as exemplified by Jesus in the Mount of Olives. Since I wasn’t able to “climb” Mount Fuji while in Japan, I could only hope to glimpse its peak from the train station in Odawara, which is near the Hakone National Park. On our sixth and last day in Japan, we were rewarded with a sunny, clear day and the perfect, snow-white cone appeared like a painting in the sky. What a beautiful souvenir from Japan! My feelings at that moment could be expressed by this haiku:

The older we get
the more easily tears come
on a long day.
Yoshi Mikami Issa
Haiku poet

It is true that when we travel to a place for the first time, we are seeing it through the eyes of a child, absorbing everything that we encounter. If my last day were sentimental, it’s because my first days were a wonder. If I were to describe my experience in Narita airport toilet as a haiku, it would sound like this:

I sit down slowly
and see buttons on one side…
a shower in spring.

Yes, the toilet-bidet combination with seat warmers, called washlet, is very popular in Japan, even in public places. Next came the trains. There was something soothing in the soft, humming sound of a modern train as it chugged along its path. Through the wide windows, I saw many Japanese houses that looked the same, mostly painted white with brown colored tiled-roofs.

Next stop was Shinjuku station, where we made a train transfer. It was a blur of black stockings over mini skirts, leggings, boots, trench coats, pashminas, folded denims with stilleto heels, black coat and ties, chic hairdos. Need I say more about Tokyo fashion? Luckily for our stomachs, we bought a bento box meal from the Ekiben (station bento) and a hot green tea bottle from a vending machine. Yes, local fast food Japanese version.

Just to say the word
home, that one word alone
so pleasantly cool.
Kobayashi Issa
Haiku poet

Have you ever tried sleeping on a mat on the floor? How about eating on a low table with your legs warmed underneath the floor, as in a kotatsu? The part I liked most was wearing Japanese pajamas called yukata, it’s almost like a kimono but made of cotton. I was at home drinking green tea and sipping miso soup, eating dried tofu, pickled ginger, maki, sushi, dried local fish and sticky rice. There was so much to learn about Japan and its culture, and thanks to my “foster parents” in Japan, I was home away from home.

How can the heart hold
something to last a lifetime…
long conversations.

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The Allure of Mount Fuji

People from all over the world, and not just the Japanese people themselves, have planned to climb Mount Fuji at least once during their lifetime. Millions more have traveled to Japan via Mount Fuji tour packages to experience the world famous mountain. Even though it is a dormant volcano, there are still risks involved in such an activity. What encourages normal, everyday people to throw caution to the wind and attempt to scale the mountain peak?

To first understand that, one must take into account the symbolism of Mount Fuji in both Japan and across the world. The mountain volcano is considered the tallest mountain in the country, with the highest point measuring over 12,000 feet in height. As with many other well known mountains across Japan, Mount Fuji has its own legends that tell of its rise and fall, and permeates the folk stories of the Japanese. This has cultivated both a love for and respect for the snowy peak in the people.

The extent of their admiration for Mount Fuji can be seen in the many other smaller Fuji-sans sprinkled all across Japan. These are all smaller hills or mountain peaks named after the original volcano. There have also been many origami books that have taught avid paper folders how to create a likeness of Mount Fuji using the art form.

The emblem of Japan even dominates the country’s landscape, with a large portion of the west of Tokyo taken up by its splendid view. Mount Fuji is known to be an extremely shy mountain, with its peak often smothered by clouds or haze. It is said that Mount Fuji’s peak can only been seen clearly and unblocked by weather for ten days out of the every calendar year. That rare occurrence perhaps adds to the mystic of the mountain.

A more negative aspect of the attraction that Mount Fuji holds for many individuals is the power and control it has over the immediate areas surrounding it. While the volcano has been dormant for centuries, geographical experts have predicted that Mount Fuji is due to stir with activity in time. Tokyo and many other cities could suffer a terrible fate if that were to happen, and it is perhaps why there are also Japanese legends which have led its people to worship gods and other deities that might be connected to Mount Fuji, praying for their safety and peace. However, Fuji-san is also an enabler of economic well-being, with numerous Mount Fuji hotels surrounding it, not to mention in Hakone and nearby resort towns.

Perhaps the final sign of how much the volcano mountain is revered in Japan is the sight of its peak shown on the country’s 1,000 yen note. It is also the most common denomination of the Japanese currency, and perhaps symbolic of the importance of Mount Fuji in the people’s psyche for it to be used in such a way. The life and death of millions of Japanese are held in the cradle of Mount Fuji’s existence, and it is therefore hard to ignore the allure and attraction the beautiful mountain peak has throughout history.

Three Skiing Essentials You May Not Have Considered Packing

Skiing holidays are a fantastic experience which every family should discover, with the chance to learn a new sport while enjoying the beautiful vistas of snow-topped mountain ranges something which you will never forget.

If you have booked your trip and are currently planning to head to the slopes for the first time, here are three items which you won’t want to forget.

Ski socks
Wearing a pair of ski boots for the first time certainly isn’t comfortable; the weight and lack of mobility makes nearly every person want to take them off straight away! To make the experience better, getting a decent pair of ski socks is imperative if you want to avoid suffering from foot blisters after a few days. Almost always padded and offering a great deal of warmth, they will also help keep your feet nice and warm while you are on the mountain, particularly when you are sat still going up the chairlift.

While a pair of ski goggles will certainly be at the top of the eyewear list, wearing them during a day full of beautiful blue skies could result in your face getting very hot. This is where sunglasses excel, being far more comfortable and cooler while also protecting your eyes from the intense sunshine. The latter point is why it’s important to get a decent pair of sunglasses with UV Protection – cheaper or imitation pairs might not offer you the same defence. Be sure to check the weather before deciding between sunglasses or goggles, as you won’t have a fun time with the former when it starts snowing.

Scarf or neck warmer
You wear a hat to protect your head, ski socks to protect your feet and a jacket to protect your body, but what have you got to keep your neck and chin warm? Although many jackets on the market cover the neck, it can easily become exposed in the icy wind, causing your body to get cold. A scarf usually does the trick, but the only problem is that they can often be very bulky.

Another worthwhile alternative is the neck warmer – an elasticated and breathable device which can be fastened under your nose to offer protection for the whole area. Resembling a fabric tube, they can also be modified into a lightweight hat for days when you would rather don your sunglasses!

With this handy information in mind, make sure that these three items are at the top of your packing list so that you can enjoy a worry-free ski holiday.


Miyajima is a small island in Japan, situated at a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. It is just like the place you would imagine in your thoughts as the perfect vacation destination. It is one of the three popular places in Japan which are known for exotic scenic beauty and calm surroundings.

Miyajima consists of mountains that hold spectacular views and adventurous nature paths, and is surrounded by deep blue seas. The island has always been known for its inclination towards history, culture and tradition, as evident through the multiple temples and shrines quietly hidden away in the mountains. A little piece of advice: You don’t have to take the rope-way up. If you are on a tight budget and have the will power, a long hike would be much cheaper and perhaps even nicer. Another option would be to take the cable car up and hike your way back down.

If your Japan travel takes you to the Miyajima Island it is sure to give you a mesmerizing experience that you are going to cherish for the whole of your life. As the ferry ride takes you to the island, you will be welcomed by a huge gate of the Itsukushima shrine. It is of bright vermilion color and stands around two hundred meters away from the shrine. This gate stands in the sea waters and is known by the name of O-Torii. This shrine has very beautiful green surroundings. It also displays the exquisite beauty of the Shiden architecture in its unique and magnificent structure.

To the excitement of the tourists they are welcomed by wild deer which keeps wandering openly in the island. These deer walk around with the tourists and accept any piece of food offered to them. Careful, as they are known to snatch things from peoples’ pockets, even paper.

Another very exceptional feature that you will find on the Miyajima Island is the Momijinda Park situated at the foot of Mount Misen. This park is a perfect picture to see. It is just like those autumn time forests that you can imagine, full of scarlet maple that make way for cherry blossoms during the spring time.

One very important thing that should not be missed while on the visit to the Miyajima Island is the local food. Around the area of the main entrance to the island you will find several small streets filled with endless food stalls. Since these aren’t sit-down restaurants, it’s easy to pick and taste numerous dishes and snacks very cheaply while you walk down the street. Some of the local foods include the Momiji manju, special assorted sweets that are shaped like the maple leaf and come with different types of fillings, fried oysters (probably most famous and must be tried), and several other types of sweets.

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