Deers in Nara Park

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Many cities in Japan were, at one time or another, the capital. Nara is one of those. It’s about 40 minutes away from Kyoto on the train and its big drawcards are its antique temples and its huge park full of deer. These deer were once considered sacred due to a visit from a mythical god who was riding a deer. Today, they’re only “national treasures” but in any case they seem to have a good time interacting with all the humans and trying to steal their stuff.

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There’s more to see in the park. Beautiful ponds and pagodas, for example.

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The highlight is the astonishing Todai-ji palace, which is apparently the largest wooden structure in the world.

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And of course the giant buddha, which is a wonder to behold, although my photos could never do it justice.

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A successful day trip, even though it’s hot and sticky beyond belief right now in Japan!

Go By Train: Toyama to Takayama and back

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Train travel in Japan is really wonderful. You can reach almost any place and the trains are fast and clean. We used bullet trains (shinkansen) and the regular local services to go from Toyama, near the coast, to a little city further south called Takayama. Hopefully these photos convey just some of how lush, green and lovely the scenery was, winding over rivers and past mountain villages with little gardens, all impossibly bright in the hot sun.

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Takayama itself is quaint and friendly with plenty of streets and buildings just as they were centuries ago. We stayed in a traditional hotel called a minshuku, with sliding doors and mats on the floor.

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On the way back, I got the view from the other side of the train. Lucky me.

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At the Owl Café, Tokyo: Fukuro no Mise

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I’m in Tokyo with my mother. I would not have known that such a thing as an owl café existed if it was not for my friend Chelsea. Apparently there is more than one owl café but this is the one that I was able to find directions to online. It’s called Fukuro no Mise just across from Exit 10 at Tsukishima Station. I dragged Mum along early in the morning, only to find that it opened at 2pm, only to find THEN that we had to make a reservation, pay 2000 yen each and come back 2 hours later. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT.

There’s really nothing to explain. For the price of entry you get to spend time with calm and mysterious owls for an hour, and have one drink, although beer is an extra 200 yen. The owls can sit on your hand, head or shoulder and you can pat them on their little heads too.

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baby owls in a box

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owl party

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these two were getting along well

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in the next one you can see how the one on the right moved to be with its friend so they could pose for a photo

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these ones had the softest feathers

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in a flap

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managed to sneak this photo as I was being pushed out the door, asahi still in hand

 

About half of these photos were taken by my mother Isobel. She didn’t want an owl on her arm so she was happy to be the photographer.

Here’s more info about the Fukuro no Mise owl café.
 

Condobolin, NSW, November 2014

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I took the train to Condobolin for a few days. It was a calming experience. The train leaves from Central Station in Sydney and goes all the way to Broken Hill. I ate a finger bun and drank some instant coffee. I felt in touch with the Australia of my childhood.

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When I got to Condobolin it was all regal buildings, wide streets, sun, silence and a big Australian sky.

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On Mount Tilga

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Gum Bend Lake

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Utes In The Paddock! It’s a big, evolving public art project.

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Home and Hosed

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Cold mornings, warm sun and the scent of jasmine on every corner – that’s what I’ll remember from the first new days in Sydney. Everything, and everyone, seems more beautiful than before. I was in Kangaroo Valley on the weekend for an old friend’s wedding and the landscape and colours really dazzled me. Everyone must have thought that I had been rendered mildly insane from jetlag, which is not untrue. I’m drinking strong, expensive coffee, and I made a banana cake and watched #qanda on a real television. No matter how I feel about our current government, or what I’m meant to be doing with my life now that I’m home, or how much I’ll come to miss Downtown Toronto in the weeks to come, Sydney is gorgeous.