Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Family trekking to Daimonji-Yama

The company that I work for, ROHM, organizes trekking twice, during spring and autumn. During spring, Shanthi and Anto stayed back assuming that the trekking course would be difficult for our little Anto, while I trekked with my colleagues. But in spring it was no trekking but just walking, along the Kamogawa, to the takaragaike-park near the kokusai-kaikan. It was such a dull experience that I did not take out my camera once. Yes not even once. In the end the company provided subsidized packed lunch with beer and snacks, which we had to eat out in the cold-windy-day.

Many of my colleagues who trekked along with me wanted to meet Shanthi and Anto. So, when the autumn trekking was announced for Daimonji-yama, I signed up for Shanthi, Anto and me, immediately. I had read about this trekking trail in some of my friend Jeff’s posts. After I signed up, the leader of the trekking-club expressed his worries that it would be difficult for my 4.9 years old Anto, and also to the inexperienced Shanthi, who had never climbed a mountain in her entire life.

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So, as a precursor to the trekking club’s event, Shanthi, Anto and me attempted to climb Daimonji-yama. A day after the tiring Sunday full of sporting events at Anto’s Kindergarten, we started out early in the morning toward Kinkakuji. I had seen the Japanese kanji “大” in the mountain near this temple and assumed it to be the “Daimonji”. When I landed in Kinkakuji, full of energy, I found out that the trekking course was near the similar sounding temple Ginkakuji. I lost half of my energy at that point. Around 4 years back, I planned to take Shanthi and Anto to Kinkakuji and took them Ginkakuji, by mistake. Anyway we took a direct bus from Kinkakuji to Ginkakuji, and in due course lost an hour.

We reached the Ginkakuji-michi bus stop, and immediately started our climb. It was kind of tricky to find the right way till the mountain trail, and we kept asking people around us till we reached the trail. Anto and Shanthi were full of energy. It was around 1115, and we started our climb just forgetting our lunch.

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Anto was carrying his jacket and snacks in his own bag, which was kind of cute. We climbed along the trail, which was crowded. We soon came across Anto’s class mate, which made me think that this trail is popular among Kyoto-ites.

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Anto posing with full of energy, while Shanthi had lost more than half of her health-points. Till half-way it was mostly mud stairs followed stone stairs. Note: It seems that the stone stairs was built by my colleagues father.

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After climbing this never-ending-stairs we reached a place which we thought was the goal. With Kyoto in the background we took a lot of snaps one of which is our family photo.

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Anto was given a lot of “funny” poses … which made me think that he has grown-up a bit ;-)

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Soon we learnt that this spot was just the mid-point and we had to climb for another 30 minutes to reach the top. At this point, Solomon still retained all his health points, while Shanthi had lost all hers, and I started feeling hungry.DSC_0067

Solomon tried hard to pump-out energy from this stone for Shanthi and me, which refreshed both of us ;-). From this point on it was just climbing-climbing-followed by more climbing. But first came this steep-yet-narrow-dirty-stairs.

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After climbing these mad and narrow stairs and walking we had to do some more rough climbing. I thought this is the first time for Shanthi, she was both frightened and exhausted, while Anto continued to try pumping out energy from the rocks for Shanthi. DSC_0075

45 minutes after leaving the mid-point we made it to the top, where we accidently ran over a colleague of mine. He also came along with his 4 year old kid.

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This is Anto gazing at Kyoto. If you see carefully you can see the Kyoto tower in this snap. Actually my colleague shot a few snaps of our whole family here which was awfully off-focus. It was around 1315 when we reached the top. We were slow, but we made it, with my yet to be 5 kid putting an end to the worries to the trekking-club leader.

Oh wait! but we have to get down which is equally tricky as climbing.  We initially thought of descending towards Yamashina, but after finding that there were not many going in that direction, we decided to take the same route that we ascended. We were hungry which drove us to walk faster, and Anto was continuously slipping, which made me put away my camera and I took his hand. We walked-walked and we reached the foot at around 1500. Solomon still had enough health-points to play around.

DSC_0096I had always wanted to trek with Shanthi, and when I found that Solomon was enjoying climbing, I was very happy. In fact I was a bit proud that he walked this trail without any fuss.

But here comes the best part, I told him that we will taking the same course next week along with my colleagues. And he answered, “During this trek I had enjoyed fully, and so next week we can try something else”. I think he is correct, climbing twice is no fun. So … I have decided to trek to some other place .. hopefully Atago-san.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Solomon starts school

Its May, 2011, 5 months passed by without any blog, despite many blog-able events. I have been waiting for more than a month to just dispel the procrastination and sum-up all my energy to compose this post …

On 2011AD, April, 9th, Saturday, Antony Solomon Britto s/o Edward Victor Britto, started school. My friends Shin and Jeff accepted our invitation and snapped almost all the unforgettable moments. Anto, as we are used to calling him at home, and Solomon as many of my Japanese friends know him, was not nervous. In fact he looked very cute in his over-sized school uniform.

First photo when he was half-way through, dressing ...

The school, hmnn… the kindergarten, that Solomon will be attending is one of the popular private Kindergarten's around. We wanted Solomon to attend a good school as most of the parents would want. Living in Japan, and not knowing the intricacies of schooling, we just took things easily. We just wanted Solomon to mingle with the local community and so initially we thought any school would do. Being a staunch catholic, my wife wanted Solomon to attend a catholic kindergarten. We found one far away from our home, but did not really like it.

When Solomon was just over 2 years old, one of our well wishers, the Tani-family, took us to Senzan youchien, which literally means “Senzan Kindergarten”, located on the scenic mountains east of Kyoto. It was love at first site. First, it is located on a scenic mountain far away from the Kyoto traffic, noise and other pollutions …

 Solomon Walking with one of the teachers

But there was one problem, it was a Buddhist establishment, and they teach each one of the kids about lord Buddha and carrying a Buddhist version of rosary is also mandatory. Initially we did not like this idea. But then there were too many positives and after many long long discussions … we just told ourselves that this is the place that Solomon would be starting his long … academic career.

But then there was another problem, we learnt that getting admitted in the Kindergarten was not easy. So we inquired with many parents of kids who already attended Senzan, and talked to the Principal teacher, and many more people who would give us some information or the other.  There were many drawbacks, the first one, both me and my wife are not fluent in Japanese, Solomon too … And then I do not have a permanent job in Kyoto, so my transfer is due any time. Anyway, it did not happen for the past 3 years … So on the day of application we went a lot lot earlier than everybody and waited outside. I had diligently filled out the application form in Japanese by myself. And we breathed a sigh of relief when we received the admit card a couple of weeks later.

I dressed in my only suite, with Shanthi and attended an Interview in the Kindergarten. Solomon was smart on that day, and we passed the interview with ease. He easily differentiated a small square from a bigger one, a lengthy pole from a shorter one, and drew a circle and the interview (children’s aptitude test) was over. Actually he knew to draw only a circle, and was asked to draw one. He was lucky. We were relived and was a bit proud of him. He did not cry and was at ease with everybody, a character passed on from my DNA.

Unlike India, in Japan, schools start on Saturday, enabling parents to attend the starting ceremony without taking a day off. So, on the 9th April, we were dressed in formals, Japanese style, which means we were dressed in black. Solomon in his school uniform.

Nyu-en-shikiAs he woke earlier than his usual waking up time of 9AM, Solomon looked a bit tired, but somehow he was coping up. He looked happy on our way. Our Japanese father, who runs this flower shop, took us to Senzan in his car.

In Oto-san's car ...

Most of the Kindergartens in Japan allow kids to attend classes well before they join, so my wife and Solomon visited Senzan every Thursday and so he was used to many of the, what I can say rules. As most of the building have wooden flooring we need to either change shoes or remove our shoes for some special slippers.

Solomon wearing his shoes ...My friend and tennis coach Shin, snapped many of the photos along with Jeff, so all credits to them.

The picture of Solomon inside my mind did not really catch up with the speed of his growth. He was already starting his school. I was overwhelmed, with a sense of responsibility, which had come as a flash. I did not even imagine that it would be this big. I looked at other kids, and many of their fathers busy shooting their kids with video-cameras. I was clearly confused, and trying to smile all times.

Solomon was led inside his class-room, where only one guardian was allowed, so I had to come out, while I was chatting with Jeff, Shin had managed to sneak inside the class and took some snaps. そろもん is the Japanese character for Solomon, and you can see this in his chair, shoe stand and desk.

Chair with his seat pillow ... Shoe stand His desk

After some briefing inside the classroom, where they introduced the class-teacher and the kids, they distributed the school diary, Buddhist rosary, and repeated the instructions for the umpteenth time. While all the kids were sitting diligently, Solomon, tired of sitting in a place started playing.

Enjoying his cooking ...

And after I forced him to sit in his seat he starting playing with the kids around him. In all he was not sitting in a place and by far the naughtiest in his class. As usual I was a bit worried.

Playing with the kids ... 

With his school diary After the classroom session, the kids and parents were made to sit for a long lecture, which Solomon and the other kids would not understand. It was obvious that my wife did not understand, while I did not listen.

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After this the senior kids of the Kindergarten performed some kind of prayer, with flowers and things like that … I could not see it, but Shin had snapped this photo.

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Shin followed Solomon to all the places, to the point that he followed him to the toilet ;-) …

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After all the formalities there was a group photo session. Solomon did not want to Stand in the usual line and wanted to sit with his mother. As foreigners we always get some (special) treatment, and here too, the principal gave away her seat for Shanthi.

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We have a special rapport with the principal who we guess played a big part in our admission, we snapped a photo with her,

With the Principal We also snapped some photos with Shin and Jeff. The tall one is Jeff and other one is Shin and here is one of them.

With Jeff and Shin We also snapped a family photo under the cherry blossoms … we will cherish this photo for a lifetime I guess …

DSC_0224 We did not directly return home as we were hungry, so we ate Pasta and Pizza, and went to hana-pot to take a snap with our Japanese parents ;) and also took a snap with the Tanis who were instrumental in Solomon joining Senzan …

With Oto-san and Oka-san 

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Solomon got a wonderful cake from hana-pot, and we ate it on the next day … In the cake, there is a Patrol car which Solomon likes very much. It is written, “Riromon, Nyuen shiki omedetou” , Riromon is a mistake, I think it should be Solomon.

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Solomon looked a lot smarter on the actual first day of school. I will write a lot more about his first few days at school later.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Galaxy in a river …

    My office is in Shiga, a 15 minutes walk from Kusatsu railway station. There is a small river called "Kusatsu-gawa" which flows over the railway line, yes, it's not a typo, this river actually is over the railway line. Though, I have never actual water flow, I thought it was for some kind of flood-prevention or something ... The dry river banks are adorned with "Cherry blossom trees" and it also has a newly-refurbished-jogging track" ...

    I guess the residents of Kusatsu were also bored with a dry river, and they probably wanted to fill it up with something ... On one fine day, when I was going to the office, I saw a group of people doing something inside the river, I presumed it to be some regular construction or some kind of maintenance work. What else can we assume if we see people working inside a not-so-happening-place.

    But in the evening while I was returning back home, I saw the following site …  a wonderful flow of candles. Yes 10,000 of them. It filled the whole river. What really amazed me was the time it would have taken to light it up. It was done manually by a group of volunteers. This shot was taken the next day, when I visited this place with Shanthi and Anto …DSC_0357 

    The following board says “7th lighting festival …”. I am working in this office for the 4th year now, and this is perhaps the first time I am seeing this. Probably, this is the first time it was made noticeable.

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The following lights were made by some school going kids … wonderful …

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    I was happy to see the river’s simulated flow. As with any other festival it was crowded, but not like the ones seen in Kyoto so it was manageable. I had ample space to set-up tripod ;-) …

Kudos Kusatsu …

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Autumn with my FCR2 ~

Local and Foreign tourists flock Kyoto all round the year, and it peaks during Autumn. Having lived in Kyoto for 3 years now and witnessing the 4th Autumn after starting to live in Kyoto, I have had no interest in visiting those so-called-famous-Autumn-spots just to avoid the crazy crowd. But this year, since the arrival of my FCR2, I started visiting places that I normally cannot go. For sometimes now, starting this September, almost every weekend, I visit Arashiyama, early in the morning, with my bike it just takes a little over 30 minutes from my home if I take the scenic-yet-non-crowded road along the Katsura river.

(In Front of Arashiyama Park)
(In Front of the serene Lake Hirozawa)
I have heard from people that Arashiyama is at its best during Autumn, and when I visited it a couple of weeks back, I found that out for myself. On that day I had started off from my home at around 0730 AM, and reached Arashiyama at around 0815 AM, and Mmmaaannn !!! it was damn crowded, the parking lot in Tenryuji was already full. Despite the crowd, I couldn't stop myself admiring the beauty of Arashiyama that stood in front of my eyes. After buying my bike, I would have visited it at-least a dozen times, but this time was special. After witnessing the sheer beauty of fall colours for myself, I took Shanthi, and Solomon with me, to Arashiyama on Sunday. With Shanthi, we took more than (3x30) = 90 minutes. Her bicycle has only 3 gears compared to my 10, does that answer the reason for 90 minutes? … anyway, she enjoyed her ride too. We had fresh coffee, some hot toast, and bought some of the finest tofu
(Shanthi and Solomon in Arashiyama)

(Our family + a neighbour in Arashiyama)

To escape from the crowded part, we went to a coffee shop near Seiryuji and after our second-breakfast, we visited the Seiryu-ji

(Anto playing inside Seiryu-ji)

Every time I visit Arashiyama, I come across a post that says, “Kyoto-Yawata-Kizu bicycle road, starts here, 45KM). After doing some research I found out that the road along Katsura is actually a bicycle trail that goes southwards till Kizugawa city, a place near the border Kyoto prefecture, close to Nara and Mie. I wanted to try this route. But then, I had a feeling that 90 KM ride was a bit too much. I decided to give it a shot last Tuesday, it was a National holiday here. I started off from my home at around 0830AM, went to a coffee shop nearby and got involved in a petty chat till 1000AM, and started off towards Kizu at around 1030AM.

Weather was fine, 15C, clear sky, wind was on my side. Except for getting lost from time to time I had fun. By the time I reached Nagarebashi, which is probably the longest wooden bridge of its kind in Japan, I was a bit tired. I had covered around 20 Kilometers from my home. Contrary to many people's guess was built after WWII

(Nagarebashi in the background)

Despite the dead flat track, riding was getting tougher and tougher, the wind started blowing randomly, and the my average speed was down. After leaving Nagarebashi and riding for some 10KM I was tired. And in the whole Kyoto-Yawata-Kizu route, except for Nagarebashi, there is nothing interesting ... Along the cycling road I saw some Huge trees, and nothing else. And when I reached the end of the cycling road, I had much difficulty in finding the following post. Except for the partly-refreshing-mostly-tiring ride, it was an anti-climax.


At this point I was dead-tired and terribly-hungry, I wanted to eat something, sitting relaxed in some restaurant. I wished I had the bike-carry-bag so that I can take it back to Kyoto by train. I started looking for a eating spot and went on for a few Kilometers, I knew that I will be reaching Nara, and yes, that was it. I just wanted to go sight seeing in Nara, except for my brain all other parts of my body objected to the idea. I grabbed a bite, of 2 rice balls, 1 financier, 1 hot dog, 1 lemon drink, and 1 Vitamin drink. I was full. I can say overloaded. Now the entire 45 odd Kilometer stretch was in front of me. Wind was clearly in the opposite direction. Precisely 180 degrees, and it would be 180 degree even when I made a 30 degree turn, it was crazy.

I started off, feeling sorry for not going around Nara, and wondering why I had to ride my bike for more than 40 Kilometers and not visit anything. Why would I do this, I really did not know, I just wanted to get back. Back home, in my comfortable little home. Wind was making the ride a lot tougher, I wished I had something to cover my ears. I could not hear anything, the ear phones from my iPod set to full volume could not beat the noise from the wind. It was very hard that made me wonder, "if this is not a typhoon, what would a typhoon be like ...". I was riding at almost walking pace, sometimes at jogging pace, and sometimes I just stopped, taking a sip and feeling my breath. And when I reached Nagarebashi, I called Shanthi to tell her that I will be late, very late, than what I had planned.

I found out that the same wind that helped me during the onward journey turned into an enemy when I was returning. I was wishing, "cant they be friendly through-out". Anyway I came back home with this nice shot.

(Somewhere near Kizu ...)

After my (Mis)adventure on Tuesday, I decided to try some less crowded Autumn spots in Kyoto, that I had heard from a friend, and I took route 31 that is in the North of Kyoto and went to Iwato-Rakuyo Jinja. It was probably the best place I have visited, partly because I had the entire temple for me. At ~30 Kilometers from my home, It was not far compared to Nara, but tougher ...

(In front of Kyoto Iwato Rakuyo Jinja)

(Fallen leaves everywhere ...)

Rakuyo means, fallen leaves, and they never clear-up the leaves that fall and it remains like a bed. It was just wonderful to see a place like this. I met a Swiss guy who shot this snap, who told me, that he has visited this temple during Autumn every year for 20 years. It was not crowded at all, partly because, reaching here was a humongous task. On my way back I had food in a restaurant called, "Yama-no-Ie Hasegawa", which literally means, a house in the mountain. We can stay here for JPY 5K per person per night. I wish I can drink and stay back someday ... when Shanthi is not around ;-)
(In the midst of No-where ... Yama-no-Ie-Hasegawa)
After having a soup + cheese-hamburger + hot cocoa + some chatting with an old couple, I headed back home. Physically tired and mentally refreshed.