Saturday, November 5, 2016

Autumn in Japan

The autumn colours are wonderful in Japan. For someone who doesn't have "autumn" back at home, I was thrilled to see autumn in Japan. Here are some of the pictures taken around the trails of Mt. Adatara at Fukushima Prefecture. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Hiking to Azuma

On 30th October, Sunday, we went hiking at Mt. Azuma at Fukushima prefecture. As usual, my Mori group volunteer - a hiking enthusiast, Yoko-san invited us for the adventure. 

We have a group of MEXT students (very international - from the UK, Malaysia, Philippines, Kenya, and Brazil ) who like outdoor activities and often go hiking together. This time, there were 6 of us including our hostess Yoko-san and her friend Youko-san (names sound very similar!). 

We were told that it would be pretty cold up above so we came prepared. After ensuring we had gloves, muffler, an extra pair of tops and jackets with us, we left our dorm at 7 am. 

By the time we reached Fukushima station from Sendai, it was 9. Yoko-san and Youko-san cheerfully came to pick us up as they always do. We wouldn't have our hiking trips had it not been for these wonderful women. It usually takes almost an hour to reach the trailhead from where we start our hike. They come for us every time, on time. 

After sitting cosily inside Yoko san's car, we drove through Bandai Azuma Skyline, one of the Japan's most spectacular mountain roads. While Yoko-san chatted with B to test his Japanese, I was already admiring the mountains that I could feel were coming closer to me. The landscape was beautiful with small houses scattered here and there. I could see trees with big red apples around, whereas on the background, trees with autumn colours stood; making the scenery vibrant and alive. I had no idea the colours of autumn would be so beautiful - each tree had its own unique shade. From orange, yellow, golden, brown, rusted orange, magenta to deep purple - these colours mystified me. 

We reached the trailhead of Azuma almost in an hour. Located next to Jododaira Marshlands, the trailhead had routes from where other hiking trails started. It was cold and windy. There were many hikers around since the no-entry order for a small area around the main crater was lifted about two weeks back. 

After ensuring we had enough clothes on and also stuffing our backpacks with extra sets of down jackets as a backup, we began ascending the peak. 

I must admit here, that, I don't own a hiking shoe. I toyed with an idea of buying one - but never bought any. When I really wanted to buy one, I realised I had other priorities (a decent pair will cost you around 15,000 JPY). That day, I was wearing a pair of really nice walking shoes - a very comfortable one. To my utter disappointment, I realised the path was muddy; as the ice (it had begun snowing already!) was just melting. Putting up a brave face I tried to avoid the puddles. I got lucky at first and then eventually came the road where there was no dry place to step on. With a heavy heart, I ascended upwards - cringing every time my beautiful shoes stepped upon the muddy trail. 

Finally a 'dry' trail!

Eventually, upon the climb, we could see breathtaking aerial views of Azuma Kofuji and Kamanuma pond. We could also see the fresh snow that glistened under the sun. 

I wish I had a good camera like Leandro

As we climbed further up, it started getting colder  (had we not walked, we'd have frozen).  The down jackets Yoko-san insisted us carrying, came useful. Soon, we were wearing double jackets, tightening our scarves making sure they abated the wind. 

Kamanuma Lake  

We were ecstatic when we reached the summit - but cold too; so cold that we couldn't even take our photographs properly.

The summit, finally!

From atop, we could also see a large pond with brilliant turquoise color called 'Majou no hitomi' meaning 'Witch's Pupil'. I must say, this was one of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen in my life.

Majou no Hitomi; Witch's Pupil

We had our lunch somewhere near the trail around Kamanuma Pond. Everyone offered something they had brought. After we helped ourselves with Apples marinated on lemon juice, fresh salad, rice dumpling dipped in black sesame paste, pickled cucumbers etcetera, we were ready to hike again. This time, we walked around the trail surrounding Kamanuma Pond. The literal meaning of 'Kama' is sickle and 'numa' means pond. As the name suggests, if you look from atop, you'd supposedly see a sickle-shaped pond. 

Kamanuma Pond

The water was crystal clear!

The descent is always tedious; especially when the trail is muddy. After few hours of struggle, we were finally back. My shoes looked unrecognisable.


We usually pamper ourselves at the end of a hike with a hot water bath at the onsen. This time too, we took an onsen - relaxing in a sulphur rich water. 

I was trying hard not to sleep when our hostess took us to the station. Every time we hike, she amazes us by her strength. When we are battered and beaten after the climb, she always looks like she could climb one more mountain. 

When we were struggling to put on the jackets Yoko-san kindly bought for us, Youko-san remarked that she had lots of them. Yoko-san sweetly replied that she wears something owned by her late husband as a memento. 

"Today, I am wearing his jacket," she said. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

After 6 months

Photo Courtesy: Leandro Ishioka

It has been 6 months since I came to Japan. 

In one of our Japanese class lectures, there was an article that explained about the emotions of the students studying abroad. At first, the situation thrills you. Everything is new, exciting and fun. 

Then slowly, reality hits - you're not going home for some good amount of time. Then, you start missing your family back home, the food, you pet dog, the ambience, the people (I even missed load shedding), basically everything. 

Gradually, you will get used to the situation, accept changes, sometimes avoid talking to your family because you think you might weaken and cry in front of them - which will eventually make them concerned. 

At then, the time comes when there is again something new to see - making you wonder; pleasantly surprised and realise there is so much to see, learn and travel after all.

Having experienced these for the past 6 months - I must say, living abroad has made me emotionally stronger. There are times when I wish I could fly back and give a bear hug to my family back home, times when teardrops glisten my eyes when I talk fondly of them with my husband B, times when I hold back the urge to sob and make a funny remark with them.

One of the most difficult times was during Dashain where everyone would post pictures of their family, grinning ear to ear, their forehead full of tika on social media. B would check facebook forlornly while I would try to cheer him up. In the end, we decided to have a small Dashain party too - with our close friends.

This is what I made - for Dashain

I have been surprisingly busy. After the series of GoGoTohoku trips, which eventually made me pause blogging (because I had lots of assignments from the free tour itself), I participated in different dance programs, volunteered for TEDxTohokuUniversity (still doing now), started reading books for good (bought a Kindle finally!)

B came and suddenly, it felt like I was on a date every day (I still do). We went to Kyoto, Osaka and even for a homestay program. We climbed mountains, took photographs, made memories. We learned to live with each other. We learned things about each other we never knew when we dated. We learned to save money.

My research started too. I was learning a programming language, doing literature reviews and maintaining a database at the same time. And then, I started teaching English too (I have my class today) and eventually realised my accent is so - so which in return made me acquire new accent (I am learning British accent now).

So this is what has happened after 6 months of coming to Japan. I feel it has been ages since I left home. The journey has been bittersweet and the fact that I still have two and a half years makes me uneasy and happy at the same time.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Back Again

It has been long since I blogged. Endless to-do lists, free trips, my husband coming to Japan, so-called honeymoon trip and the beginning of the new semester are the excuses I'd like to come up with. Life has changed so much since the last time blogged. I was fortunate enough have B here in Japan and travel to Kyoto and Osaka, experience a home-stay program with a Japanese family with him. In my head, I'd say, "I should blog about this" and yet every time, I'd falter. However, today, I've mustered up to jot down few words before my motivation level goes downhill. 

Meanwhile, I am still going to post the GoGoTohoku Articles which I am pretty sure no one reads. 

By the way, I had a strange dream today. I was back at home, amongst marigolds and mustard plants waiting for Dashain to come. I miss my family and the Dashain holiday spirits. I am sure B has his share of nostalgia too. But at the same time, this is the first Dashain for two of us, and I am glad we are together to celebrate it no matter how far we are from home. 

Happy Dashain guys. Enjoy! 

Meanwhile, here is a post regarding Dashain I wrote a year ago. Gosh, I had so much energy back then. 

Well, I hope to blog again and do it much better than before. There is going to be Zappylily version 2.0 soon. 

Till then, Ciao! 

Photo Source:

Monday, August 1, 2016

How To Eat 100 Bowls Of Soba At Azumaya Soba Shop

Originally published in Go!Go!!TOHOKU!!!

Do you like Soba? I love Soba! From the tantalising texture, as it slips into my mouth, to the refreshing relish I feel from the helpings of cold soup it's served with - but how much is your love for Soba really? Can you eat 500 bowls of soba and still profess your love for it? If you think you can, you should go to eat at Azumaya Soba Shop at Morioka, Iwate Prefecture!

Here you can eat as much as you can - LITERALLY