We flew into Murun this afternoon on our way to Khuvsgul National Park. A small deviation brought us to the collection of carved deer stones at Uushigiin Uver, believed to be 2500 to 4000 years old. The stones include carvings of deer, archery items, the sun and hunan heads.

The goats and sheep could care less.

We arrived at Lake Khuvghul around 7.00 pm in time for dinner, and the first guests of the season at this camp.


Great Wave off KanagawaUnder the Wave off Kanagawa (or The Great Wave) is one of the most popular images ever to emerge from Japan.

This woodblock print by the prolific artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was just one in the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.

The Sumida Hokusai Museum opened in late 2016. The current exhibition, Hokusai’s Water Wonderland, focuses on his waves and waterfalls, and how the imported pigment, Prussian Blue, featured greatly in the series.


Thirty-six views of Mt FujiThirty-six views of Mt Fuji -

Hokusai worked in many forms during his long life and was also responsible for small  manga-like how-to-draw manuals, some of which are available free of copyright on Open Culture. 

As you can see, they are still very useful to those learning drawing, even if you don’t read Japanese.


Hokusai and other “artists of the floating world” (ukiyo-e) greatly influenced the French impressionists and Japonisme became quite the fashion in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

As you might guess from the name, Hokusai inspired the series of prints by French artist Henri Riviere called Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower.


The museum is well worth a visit as much for the building itself, designed by the architect Kazuyo Sejima.

This is what last night’s dinner looked like. The luxury hotel we stayed in was booked months ago at a very economical price. The cost for two to dine in their restaurant was more than we paid for the room. The Gyoza Center is well patronised in the area by travellers keen to get some good gyoza from a family-run take-away business. A drop-in to a convenience store on the way home and we were set to smuggle dessert and a bottle of wine to our room.


The same went for breakfast this morning. We started the day in the cafe of the Hakone Open Air Museum, thus rendering us fit to walk around the extensive and impressive gardens and halls of this sculpture park.




The Picasso Pavilion contains some of the artist’s less familiar works. It is the first time I have ever seen any of his gemmail pieces where layers of coloured glass are overlaid with a clear glue to produce a mottled stained glass effect.


One of the most impressive works in the Museum is Symphonic Structure. A  staircase allows you to climb up the inside to get a closer view of the sculptured glass work.


img_4220There are many notable names represented in the collection, including Alexander Calder and Henry Moore. Here’s a small selection not by Calder or Moore.



A journey down the east coast of the Izu Peninsula afforded big sea views and a change from the winding roads around Mt Hakone. We stopped off in Ito, right near the railway station in search of lunch.

Some of our best meal experiences have been random. If the price is right and the plastic models or menus look promising, we’re in.

In the company of two others seated with us at the counter, we watched while the chef prepared and assembled nine sushi plates from scratch for the customers who had already ordered. His parents were preparing other dishes, serving up miso and waiting on customers.

After our meals arrived, another customer entered and sat beside us. Once her glass was filled with sake, she started to chat, our broken Japanese and English helping to make a connection. The next thing we knew, the man at the counter was offering us one of his raw fish dishes to eat. It felt like a Netflix episode of Midnight Diner (Tokyo stories) except for the fact it was lunch time.

By the time we left, it was bows and handshakes all around. The elderly woman escorted us out of her very small restaurant and called out as we stepped up the road. “Nice day have!” We did have, and she helped to make it so.


We are in Izukogen for the next two nights overlooking the ocean and pulling back a tad on the pace of travel. On Thursday, it’s back to Tokyo until we leave for the Mongolia leg of this amazing trip.

What a view to wake up to on a Sunday morning in Matsumoto. And what a thrill to discover another Yayoi Kusama exhibition on our travels.  This one was especially good as it showcased her work from the age of ten, back in 1939, to now. Photography was limited to a few specific pieces and areas, so I can’t show you some of the impressive mirror works or the beautiful pencil sketches she produced as a teenager. Matsumoto is the artist’s home town, so the gallery has gone all out with this exhibition, All About my Love.





A little way out of the city centre is the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, dedicated to the work of famous wood block print artists. It is a relatively small museum with originals and reproductions of famous prints.


We watched a video of the wood block carving and printing process which served to demonstrate how intricate and difficult it is to produce these masterpieces. We had our own chance to make a couple of prints via the use of stamps overlaid on each other.


Then it was on the road again to see the majestic mountain portrayed in these mini-prints.


Armed with a 500 yen day bus pass, we started off in Kenroku-en Garden, one of the most famous gardens in Japan.

Kenrokuen means “Garden of the Six Sublimities”, a term taken from ancient Chinese literature to describe the six essential features of a perfect garden. To create a sublime garden, the gardener must incorporate spaciousness and seclusion; artifice and antiquity; and waterways and broad views.

Some of the features include:

Gangkou bashi, The Flying Geese Bridge. 

The word gangkou means “flying in the formation of geese”. Eleven Tomuro stones (local red andesite) are placed across the water just so, as stepping stones.



The care of trees

There is evidence everywhere of the care that Japanese arborist take to protect the longevity of trees.


In winter, the technique called Yuki Tsurugi uses bamboo poles and ropes to protect trees and shrubs from heavy snowfalls.

The Kotojitoro Lantern


Midoritaki Waterfall


We participated in a communal tea ceremony at Shiguretei Tea House inside a tatami alcove before a last view of the irises and Kasumigaike Pond.




Kawazama Castle and its neighbouring Gyokusen inmaru Garden are just across the road from Kenroku-en Garden.



After lunch it was time for a little reflection at a museum dedicated to the Buddhist philosopher, D T Suzuki.


Much of the afternoon was spent in the Higachi Chaya district the home of historic tea houses and entertainment venues and geisha.



Kanazawa is a sleek and modern city, with an impressive new railway station, built to accommodate the arrival of a Shinkansen service.


We ended the day nearby the station in a sushi station complete with tablet ordering and bullet train delivery, where the pile of plates were scanned to produce the bill at the end of the meal.



Arishiyama is also the home of the UNESCO World Heritage temple, Tenryu-ji. This place was the site of the first Japanese Zen temple (in the 9th century) and in its current form continues as a temple of the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism.



The 14th century designed Zen garden is, like the temple, set among the backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The designer was Muso Soseki and his approach of incorporating the external environs of the garden is called shakkei, which means borrowed landscape.


Muso Soseki (1275-1351) was hugely influential in establishing Zen Buddhism in Japan. As well as being a Zen Master and garden designer, he was a poet, teacher and calligrapher.

This poem (translated by American poet, W S Merwin and Soiku Shigematsu) appears in This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, curated by the wonderful Naomi Shihab Nye.



We discovered a delightful breakfast cafe just around the corner from our hotel in suburban Osaka this morning. The regular clientele were all elderly citizens, one of whom rushed to clear a table space for us as we entered. We had a breakfast set which included a small potato salad, raisin toast, a hard-boiled egg and tea/coffee for which we parted with the princely sum of 700 yen (A$8.60).

Back to the train network and on to Kyoto. We are staying in Gion, a famous geisha district. In Kyoto, the local word for geisha is geiko or “women of art”.

Our first port of call was the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art and an exhibit of the work of Yayoi Kusama.

Then, a leisurely stroll around the district to see Yasaka-jinja Shrine and Yasaka Pagoda.


A photograph of this stunning opera cake with matcha mandala drew us in to the Salon de Kanbayashi for tea and coffee.

There were lots of beautiful kimono on show this afternoon. No doubt there will be more to see in the days ahead.

We picked up another rental car just for today for the trip east and north to Takamatsu. The weather forecast was for rain later in the day and so it was.

The early morning view from our hotel window provided our last view of Matsuyama Castle (top left hand corner) and its moat.


To save time, we took the expressway part of the way, missing our planned exit. Sometimes navigation glitches bring unexpected surprises along the way.


First pit stop of the day was in white-water rafting territory and the gusty winds were making these carp kites dance above the river.

Next stop was the Kazura-bashi, an old vine bridge, but not before having some of our first takoyaki of the trip.


In the tiny village of Nagaro are the most delightful collection of life-sized, scarecrow like dolls created by local resident Ayano Tsukimi. On porches and in gardens, or sitting by the side of the road, they memorialise former inhabitants of the town. These are but a few of them.


We arrived in Takamatsu after dark in heavy rain after navigating winding narrow roads down from Mount Tsurugi to the busier yet easier roads into the city. Tonight’s meal was very welcome coming straight after being bamboozled by our first self-serve petrol bowser, checking in to our digs for the next two nights, and returning the rental car.