Showing posts with label flower. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flower. Show all posts

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Cosmos in Kameoka: In the trail of autumn flowers

Kameoka city is about 30 minutes away from Kyoto city by the Japan Railway rapid train.  It is located in the Tamba region of Kyoto prefecture, a region hailed as the "roof" of the prefecture due to its mountain ranges. A quiet city with a flourishing agricultural industry, Kameoka is worlds apart from Kyoto city. The train ride brings you through valleys and rivers and it is a good place to go for nature lovers.
Some months ago, I read about the Tamba-Kameoka Yume Cosmos Park in the city where 8 million cosmos would bloom in autumn.  The pictures I saw of the flowers were beautiful and I found myself looking forward to that day in autumn in which I would stroll through the fields of cosmos.  And on 20 Oct, in spite of the loads of homework from school, I  found time to make the trip to the city.

Upon arrival at the JR Kameoka station, I took the Keihan Kyoto Kotsuu Bus no. 40 (from Bus-stand number 3) at the bus terminal in front of the train station.  Unlike the Kyoto city bus in which there is a flat rate of 220 Yen as long as you are travelling within the city, the Keihan Kyoto Kotsuu Bus fare is calculated according to the distance travelled. 
When you board the bus, you need to collect the ticket from the ticket machine near the door of the bus.  There is a number printed on the ticket. To know how much to pay when you alight, you need to pay attention to the fare display in front of the bus (see picture in the extreme left of the photo collage below).  If you look under the number display that corresponds to your ticket number, you will see the fare indicated in red numbers.  As my ticket number states "1", I looked under the display under "1". I paid 250 Yen for the trip from the JR Kameoka station to the Kameoka Undo Koen where I alighted.

The Kameoka Undo Koen bus-stop where I alighted is just across the road from the cosmos park.  Once I alighted, I could see the fields of flowers before me.  There were people photographing the flowers from outside the park.  Entry to the park required an admission fee of 600 Yen.  There was a discount coupon for weekday use only which could be downloaded from the website and you could save 100 Yen with it.

Since I came all the way and spent about an hour travelling just to get to the park, I was determined to enter the park. Although it was a Saturday, there were not as many people as I had thought. It could also be because I went around lunch-time.  It had been raining quite often that week and I was glad that the day was blessed with great weather. The sun was at its strongest but it also meant that I could get pretty good photographs.

The flowers started to bloom around the end of September and the flower viewing event was originally scheduled to end in end October. However, it has been extended to 4 November.  When I went there, I could see that there were still many flowering buds so I guessed there were still many "late-bloomers".  When I left the park and Kameoka, I had the feeling that there is more to discover in this city.  I will definitely find time to visit Kameoka again.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

What I am looking forward to

There are a dozen things I am looking forward to in the next few months.
For example, the autumn colours in Kyoto, the famous Kyoto festival known as the Jidai Matsuri, the light-up at Arashiyama, the JLPT exam, the overnight disaster drill, trips with friends from Singapore, the resuming dance classes, the winter school vacation, the possibility of attending a concert of my favourite Jpop group in nearby Osaka, etc.  
But what I am most looking forward to is the sunflowers blooming outside the mansion. The sunflower seeds which I gave to my landlady after returning from the sunflower fields  in August seem to be doing well under my landlady's care. If all goes well, they are expected to bloom in autumn.
Can sunflowers thrive in the cold? I do get abit worried for the young plants when I see them outside in the cold of the morning. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Tango Region of Kyoto I : In the trail of summer flowers

One summer day in early August, I left my mansion at 4am in the morning and cycled to the JR Enmachi station near my place so that I could catch the early local train to the Tango region.  I had read from the prefecture newsletter about the sunflower fields in Yosano, a town in the Tango region. If sakura is the flower of spring, then the himawari, as sunflowers are known in Japanese, is the flower to see at the height of summer. Yosano was to be my first destination that day.
Using the economical Seishun 18 ticket which allowed me travel only on the slower local or rapid trains on the JR network, I took a train to the JR Nishimaizuru station, which involved going through two train transfers at JR Sonobe and Ayabe stations respectively. From Nishimaizuru, I then had to transfer to the privately-run KTR or Kitakinki Tango Railway to get to Nodagawa which is the nearest station to Yosano. The JR Seishun 18 ticket could not be used on a private railway train so I bought a one-day train ticket from the KTR station master at 1200 Yen. 
The train journey including transfers took me about 3.5 hours for one way. Upon arrival at Nodagawa, I got some directions from the station master on how to get to Yosano, since I couldn't find details online. The kind man told me it was possible to walk there in 30 minutes. I was glad I didn't have to incur additional transport costs.
My leisurely walk probably took me an hour as there were many pretty sights along the way. From the wild flowers along the path to a massive pond of water lotus in bloom to the expanse of rice fields and more, the long walk under the hot summer sky was definitely worth it. It was so peaceful a place that all you could hear were the songs of the insects in your path.

At the Yosano sunflower fields, I was surprised that there were not many people. I had expected there to be many visitors as it was the second last day the fields were opened to the public. The access to the fields probably deterred tourists and those without private transport. How many people would have the time I had to spend 4 or 5 hours traveling just to look at some flowers?  But then again, it was not just some flowers. The fields were quite a sight to behold and definitely worth losing sleep and traveling for! I didn't know the flowers could grow so tall! 

One observation though was that many flowers were drooping, which meant they were close to withering.  The fields were opened to the public for a limited period from 4 to 12 Aug (admission fee of 200 Yen). It would have been better to go in the beginning of the period in order to see all the flowers in their best form. A surprise from the visit though was that visitors were each given a small packet of sunflower seeds as a souvenir so we could grow our own flowers.

After spending a morning at Yosano, it was a long walk back to the station and the sweltering heat didn't make it easier. But with the beautiful images of the sunflowers at the back of my mind, my spirits were high and I walked with purpose towards my next destination.

Friday, 14 September 2012

My landlady's pride

One reason I am in Kyoto and taking this long break from work is to take time off to smell the flowers, as the saying goes.

Coincidentally, my landlady is a person with green fingers and I am in no want of pretty flowers even at my Kyoto home. The patio of the mansion where we live is where my landlady proudly displays her plants.

Around mid-August, I saw a plant prominently placed at the patio which I had never seen before. It caught my attention because of the small, yellow star-shaped flowers flanked by two white petals.

The flowers were in bloom for only a couple of days and I was glad I took a photograph of them.  I wonder what they are called.
A day after I saw the wilted yellow flowers, another new flowering plant was in their place. And I began to realise why I didn't see these plants before. 

My landlady probably kept some of the plants in her house and brought them out only when the flowers started to bloom so that others might admire them too.

"Come look at this flower! It only blooms for one day," she said enthusiastically when she saw me at the patio, and pointed to the huge, crimson flower which looked like a variety of the hibiscus.

"Okusan, you really like flowers, don't you?" I commented. "Yes, I love them!" She said happily and then started to bring me through the various plants at the patio, for the third time in the five months I have lived here.

How nice it will be if I could always be here to listen to Okusan talk about her plants.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Prologue: the first three months

When I first arrived in Kyoto on 26 Mar 2012, I wanted to start a blog as soon as possible to share my adventures and observations. But I didn't.

It was because it took me longer than expected to set my life in order in this foreign land.

I didn't speak  much Japanese; I had to look for an apartment; I had to furnish my apartment; I didn't have internet; I didn't have a mobile phone and I knew no one. It was winter then. I remember feeling rather gloomy because of the cold and loneliness. 


The semester started on 2 Apr. A flurry of orientation activities followed. There were the Japanese class placement tests to grapple with at that time, amidst questions on whether and how to get myself a bed, internet and maybe some friends, for a start.  I was kept busy.

By the end of the first month, I was plagued by a different set of concerns.  I couldn't articulate my thoughts in class. My proficiency level was too low. I thought the class placement was a mistake but I was not allowed to rectify it.  I couldn't keep up with everyone's pace.  My classmates are young, in their early 20s. I was too slow for my age. By trying to keep up, I spent most of my time in my apartment studying.

It was fortunate that the sakura trees were in bloom at that time. The transience of the beautiful flowers reminded me of my mortality. I felt blessed to be able to undertake this journey on my own, and in good health. More importantly, I found strength and optimism.


With the passing of the sakura,  the Golden Week - a series of public holidays in the first week of May - brought me my parents and my friends from Singapore. Their short stays with me dispelled my loneliness for a while.
But by the end of May, I started to feel disconnected from society. Every day, when I went to class, it felt unreal.  It didn't help that I live somewhere else while most of the people I would have loved to hang out with stay in the school dorm. I was hardly included in the social activities of people I know in school. 

I felt a desperate need to fill the emptiness that surrounded me after class. I needed to interact with people.  I wanted to contribute to society again. I started job hunting but couldn't make any headway with my low Japanese proficiency. I thought of getting a television but it didn't seem right to replace people with a box.

And so, I started to look beyond the school campus for activities targeted at working adults. I was afterall a shakai-jin (社会人).


Life becomes meaningful knowing you are able to help others. I eventually found a non-profit organisation with a mission I could identify with, where I volunteer my skills.

It is an organisation that promotes international exchange between Japanese children and children in other parts of the world. The founders of the organisation escaped death because of a postponed meeting that made them cancel the ill-fated flight on 11 Sep 2001. They felt that they had to do something for the chaotic world and set up the NPO.  These are people who dared to make the difference.  I was deeply inspired.

I also started searching for cultural activities that I am interested in. For two Saturdays per month, I am now learning Japanese traditional dance.  At the class, I met people who share my interests, understand my difficulties, and are willing to listen and advise. 

Not too long ago, a classmate who is returning to America generously gave me her bicycle.  The bicycle, in its orange splendour, seems to have a message for me. Every time I look at it, I hear the words, Do More, Feel Better, Live Longer!

It looks like life in Kyoto has just begun.