The first of the Sakura
In a park in Fushimi-ku, about 4km from our house, I saw my first Sakura (Cherry Blossom) for this season. Almost a month before the Somei-Yoshino (the most common ones in Japan) come into bloom. This particular Sakura is a Hybrid with Somei-Yoshino and an another kind (which I can't recall at the moment). The colour of these ones is a lot pinker than the Somei-Yoshino.
What makes these blossom so early I don't know. The trees in this park are fairly young and I know the younger Somei-Yoshino blossom maybe a week earlier than older ones, but never so early as this. Other factors like being near sun facing walls or being surrounded by bitumen or concrete also can make the bloom come a little earlier, but these Sakura are in a park with grass.
Here is a present we received from the kindergarten across the road at the end of their annual Gospel presentation, because it coincided with the Doll Festival (or “Hina Matsuri”). We attended the presentation by the students and teachers at the kindergarten. It was a very professional show. The teachers spent many a late night preparing the costumes and props for the presentation. In the presentation the students acted out various bible stories and also performed a number of musical items of both Christians and Japanese Folk Songs (with a good moral message). They also recited a number of scriptures and prayers. The kindergarten is doing wonderful work to impact the next generation of Nagaokakyo. We are glad that we can work alongside them in reaching this city with the Gospel.
Well, with a few friends and family planning to visit us later this year. I thought I might take this opportunity to BLOG about the “Haruka” which is the train in this photo. This is the fastest (although not the cheapest) way to get from Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Kyoto. Taking just 75minutes to make the trip. It's also a very comfortable train to travel on with spacious seating and large baggage stowage areas. If you don't have much baggage you could try the Airport Rapid Service which is half the cost, but it's a regular commuter train (extremely crowed at peak times) and you'll have to switch to a Special Rapid Service at Osaka. If you have a Japan Rail Pass you can use it on the Haruka, so don't bother with any of the cheaper methods of transportation.
As you can see this part of the line is four tracked, so the express trains use the outside tracks and the slower trains use the inner tracks. However line the “Haruka” uses on the section between Shin-Osaka and the Airport is only 2 tracked so sometimes you get stuck behind slower trains, but this is factored into the time table and a number of the stations are 4 tracked so you just overtake the slower trains when they are at a station. Japan has the most efficient rail system in the world!
To get to Nagaokakyo from Kyoto station, just catch a local train heading towards Osaka. Nagaokakyo is 12minutes from Kyoto by train.
Go the Dockers!
Football season (Aussie Rules) has come around again, but now I'm in Japan and far from the action of the AFL (Australian Football League), although there are a few Aussie Rules teams in Japan and local competition comprising of Aussie expats and interested locals. However, I'm still a loyal Fremantle Dockers fan and I hope this season goes better than the last one! Knowing this my parents kindly sent me this poster from the Sunday Times (a Western Australian Sunday Newspaper). So I've proudly pinned up the poster on my wall in my dining/English class area of our house here in Nagaokakyo. Anyway in this day and age it's possible for me to catch all the action of the AFL via the internet or for a bit more atmosphere I could make my way to Murphy's Irish Pub in Osaka (less than an hour away by train) which shows all of the AFL games on their big screen satellite TV. Why does an Irish pub show the AFL games? Because Australian Rules Football (Aussie Rules) is similar to Irish Gaelic Football.
Spring is on the way
This a shot of some Ume (Plum Blossoms) it is the first tree which blossoms in a sequence which takes about 6-7 weeks. So firstly the Ume (Plum Blossoms), then the Momo (Peach Blossoms), then the Anzu (Apricot Blossom) and finally the Sakura (Cherry Blossom) which is the most spectacular of them all. Anyway, it's always good to see the trees that have been dead looking for three or more months begin to have signs of life again. That uplifting feeling that spring is on the way and it's not going to be so cold any more. Mind you until the Sakura peek it's still pretty cold in Kyoto!