Tokyo German Village – 東京ドイツ村

Chiba, December千葉 12月

My husband and I visited the Kikuchi Family and Chiba once again in the winter. Kumi and Hiroto took us to see a magnificent illumination in the middle of the countryside; Tokyo German Village, which is actually in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture.


This winter illumination is one of the three best illumination of the Kanto area, they have three million LED lights on the landscape, all over the fields and buildings. The theme park is open throughout the year; visitors can enjoy the illumination during winter, and the seasonal flower fields, golf course and picnics in summer. There is also German food and beverages.


Tokyo German Village

419, Nagayoshi, Sodegaura, Chiba, 299-0204 Japan


〒299-0204 千葉県袖ケ浦市永吉419

Cycling around Lake Balaton Part 2 – バラトン湖周辺サイクリング その2

Hungary, Septemberハンガリー 9月

The cycling went well, but maybe too fast; soon we had reached the other end of the lake, the flat part was over and it was time to start climbing to the hills. The views on the northern side wine region were beyond beautiful. Now we were used to our bicycles and found a good pace to our pedaling. 


The countryside was charming, and the roads felt safe. Every day we cycled through magnificent sceneries; the autumn fields continued to the horizon, cute cottages and a lot of different kinds of farm animals spotted our way. Sometimes we found an attractive town or nice spa resort and spent a night or two. Our favourite place was a small spa town Hévíz, which has the second largest thermal lake in the world. Conveniently it was raining, so we decided to stay there, and enjoy the warmth of the lake.

田舎は魅力的で、安心できる道でした。 毎日、壮大な景色の中をサイクリングしました。 秋の畑は地平線まで続き、かわいいコテージと様々な種類の家畜たちが所々に現れました。ときどき気になる町や素敵なスパリゾートを見つけて、1、2泊しました。私たちが気に入ったのは、世界で2番目に大きな温泉湖がある小さな温泉街ヘーヴィーズです。都合良く雨が降っていたので、町に留まって湖の暖かさを楽しむことにしました。

For a first-timer our cycling journey was a success. We didn’t have any trouble, if occasional flat tires or flying ants on the way back to Budapest doesn’t count.


Our route: Budapest – Gardony – Siófok – Keszthely – Hévíz – Tapolca – Veszprém – Székesfehérvár – Gardony – Budapest. It took 11 days, Hévíz was the only place we stayed two nights. Total kilometres was around 430.

私たちの道のり:ブダペスト → ガールドニ → シーオフォク → ケストヘイ → ヘーヴィーズ → タポルツァ → ヴェスプリーム → セーケシュフェヘールヴァール → ガールドニ → ブダペスト 11日間の旅で、2泊したのはヘーヴィーズだけです。 総距離は約430kmでした。

Puli, interesting looking Hungarian dog breedwhich end is the head?
Picturesque town of Tapolca
Tópart Bisztró
Beautiful Veszprém
The view from the Castle Hill Veszprémi Várhegy

Tópart Bisztró

Arany János u. 1, Tapolca, 8300 Hungary

Veszprém Castle

József Attila u. 40, Veszprém, 8200 Hungary

Thermal Lake of Hévíz

Csokonai u. 3, Hévíz, 8380 Hungary

Cycling around Lake Balaton Part 1 – バラトン湖周辺サイクリング その1

Hungary, Septemberハンガリー 9月

We started our cycling holiday from Budapest, where we stayed one night and rented our bicycles. Next morning, full of joy, we packed our gear and headed for lake Balaton. Hungary is one of our favourite destinations, and for years I had dreamed about conquering this lake! Finally, it was real.

ブダペストで1泊し、自転車を借りて、私たちのサイクリング・ホリデーが始まりました。翌朝、喜びいっぱいに荷物をまとめて、バラトン湖に向かいました。 ハンガリーは私たちのお気に入りの目的地の1つですが、何年もの間、この湖を制覇することを夢見ていました! それがついに実現したのです。

This was our first bike trip, and we were excited to see how we can manage; we are not very athletic persons and we cycle only for fun during summer. We didn’t make any schedules or booked hotels in advance, but more like drifted from one place to the next one. It was off season, so there weren’t a lot of tourists.


It took us two days to reach the lake; when we saw it for the first time, glimmering through the tree leafs, was a magical moment. Balaton is the biggest lake in Central Europe, it is 77 kilometres long, quite shallow and has a beautiful turquoise colour. It’s one of the most popular holiday resorts in Hungary, and I can totally understand why; around the lake there are a lot of nice hotels, restaurants and cafes, and the nature is spectacular.


Sunset at lake Valencia
Charming Hotel Kentaur
Our route choices were sometimes interesting

Hotel Kentaur

Akácfa u. 1, Siófok, 8600 Hungary

Wacken Open Air – ヴァッケン・オープン・エア

Schleswig-Holstein, Augustシュレースヴィヒ=ホルシュタイン 8月

One of the biggest heavy metal festivals in the world is held in a small Northern German village, Wacken. Every August cows have to step aside when 75.000 metalheads take over the serene countryside with their tents and caravans. Camping in the area is free for all who have purchased the festival ticket.


This three-day event draws bands and their fans from all over the world. The festival site is huge, over 240 hectares open field which includes eight stages, camping ground, beer tents, food stalls, places called Holy Ground and Wasteland. In thirty years this event has expanded from tiny to gigantic; nowadays W:O:A has almost two hundred bands and a lot of other activities. 


It was a great chance to explore German countryside at the same time. Wacken is in the middle of equally picturesque villages like Vaale and Agethorst; I have relatives in both of them, so no need for a tent! During the festival there is a non-stop shuttle bus commuting from the beautiful town of Itzehoe to Wacken, so it’s also possible to stay at a hotel.


Wacken Open Air
The festival is in the middle of beautiful countryside
My boots after first day

Wacken Open Air

Hauptstraße 47, 24869 Wacken, Germany

Senshu Park – 千秋公園

Akita, May秋田 5月

The last day of my Rail Pass I traveled to Akita City, the hometown of Endo. The journey from Tokyo took almost four hours even with the Shinkansen. Cherry blossoms had already fallen, but now it was azalea blooming time, and everywhere was bright pink, aniline red and purple bushes.


Senshu Park is in the heart of the city; a luscious green oasis full of things to see throughout the seasons. It’s built to the ruins of Kubota Castle, and there still are some of those ancient buildings like omonogashira gobansho, the guard house. One of the Kubota Castle’s turret towers is restored, and open to the public.


The park is one of Japan’s top 100 historical parks as well as one of the top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots. They also have a beautiful Kogetsu pond, a few museums and shrines in the area.


The outer moat
Kogetsu Pond
Tower of Kubota Castle
View from the tower

Senshu Park

1-6 Senshukoen, Akita, 010-0876, Japan

Kubota Castle Ruins

1-39 Senshukoen, Akita, 010-0876, Japan


〒010-0876 秋田県秋田市千秋公園1


〒010-0876 秋田県秋田市1 秋田市千秋公園1番4

Niigata – 新潟

Niigata, May新潟 五月

After Shodoshima and Osaka, I headed to Tokyo; I still had a few days left on my Japan Rail Pass and wanted to explore some new cities. Inspired by Sato’s father, I booked a day trip to Niigata.


After a two-hour journey I arrived at the city and immediately felt relaxed; the weather was a bit cooler, and the streets were less crowded.. I fancied a bird’s-eye view, and the best place for that was Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP building’s free observation deck.


Niigata took me by surprise. I don’t know what I had imagined, but certainly not this; wide promenades at the river banks, fishing vessels and old tug boats floating in the shiny water, people enjoying beautiful weather while sitting on the benches. No wonder why it’s called the city of water.

新潟には驚かされました。 川岸の広い遊歩道、釣り船、輝く水上に浮かぶ古いタグボート、人々はベンチに座って美しい天気を楽しんでいます。私はどんな街を想像していたのかわかりませんが、間違いなくこの様ではありませんでした。水の都と呼ばれるのも不思議ではありません。

View from Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP building
Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP
At the riverside promenade

Niigata Nippo MEDIA SHIP

3-1-1 Bandai, Chuo Ward, Niigata, 950-0088 Japan


〒950-0088 新潟県新潟市中央区万代3丁目1−1

Shōdoshima, Day Two – 小豆島 2日目

Kagawa, May香川 5月

Our accommodation was comfortable; the cabin had a kitchen/living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a balcony with a great view to the sea. Near was a hot spring, which we visited before going to sleep, so we could wake up refreshed to the new day.


After breakfast we said goodbye to our lovely cabin and drove off to see the day’s first sight: senmaida, ‘one thousand rice fields’ arranged like tiny shelves on top of each other on the hillside. Probably because I come from a very flat country, everything related to mountains are enchanting for me, but these fields! How is it possible to cultivate them?


Next we visited the Shōdoshima Olive Park, which was like a small piece of Greek with its beautiful flower and herb beds, olive groves and shiny-white buildings. They also have Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service herb shop Corico that was a must-see for Chihiro and me.

次に、小豆島オリーブ公園を訪れました。美しい花とハーブの花だん、オリーブの木立、輝くような白い建物があって、そこはまるでギリシャの一角のようでした。スタジオジブリ「魔女の宅急便」の映画のロケセットがあるハーブショップ コリコは、千尋と私には必見の場所でした。

Sunrise from our cabin
Senmaida fields
At the Olive Park
Kiki’s Delivery Service herb shop Corico

Shōdoshima Olive Park

1941-1, Kagawa, Shozu-gun, Shōdoshima, Nishimura, 761-4434 Japan

道の駅 小豆島オリーブ公園

〒761-4434 香川県小豆郡小豆島町西村甲1941-1

Shōdoshima, Day One – 小豆島 1日目

Kagawa, May香川 五月

Early in the morning we drove to Kobe harbour, and to ferry; our destination was three hours away, the gem of the Seto Inland Sea. Shōdoshima is one of the Inland Sea’s 3000 islands, and famous for its olives and soy sauce.


The ferry ride was pleasant, we had breakfast and played cards on the floor among other passengers. When we arrived in Shōdoshima, our first attraction was Nijushi no Hitomi Movie Village. It’s the actual shooting place of the Twenty-four eyes (Nijū-shi no Hitomi), filmed in 1954. After soomen lunch we fed the big carps on the canal and played on the beach. The weather was perfect for outdoor activities, sunny and bright.


We also visited a soy sauce factory and last, the Angel Road. It’s a narrow pathway which connects the mainland and few other small islands; it appears twice a day during low tide. Angel Road is a magical place; the sea and its waves had sculptured the rocks and softened the sand, and emerald green seaweed covered the rocks on the shore.


The Port of Kobe
The ferry is leaving
Arriving to the ‘Olive Island
Nijushi no Hitomi Movie Village
The Twenty-four Eyes movie’s teacher and pupils
Soomen lunch
Soy sauce factory
At the Angel Road
The sea water was chrystal clear
Mikiko and Otoosan
Our cabin

Twenty-four Eyes Movie Village

甲931 Tanoura, Shōdoshima, Shozu, Kagawa 761-4424, Japan


〒761-4424 香川県小豆郡小豆島町田浦甲931

Back to Osaka – 大阪に帰る

Osaka, May大阪 5月

After saying goodbye to the Kikuchi Family and the Jinpuu staff, I headed for Tokyo Station, and took a Shinkansen to Osaka. Golden Week was about to start, and because of that, the Tanaka Family and I would travel to Shōdoshima Island.


Golden Week has a great impact on already crowded stations; everybody wants to travel at the same day, and queues are tremendous. Thank God, Kumi had helped me to send my luggage to the Tanakas, so I didn’t have to carry it!


When the Shinkansen arrived in Osaka, my sadness had almost disappeared, and I was ready to face some new adventures; we began our holiday at a sushi carousel with Mikiko, Otoosan and Ojiisan. It’s been a year since the last time we met. In the evening, we had dinner with the whole gang; I was happy to be with my Japanese family again!


Otoosan and Ojiisan
Back at the house
Cold soba noodles

The Kikuchi Family – 菊池ファミリー

Chiba, March千葉 3月

Jinpuu‘s heart and soul were the Kikuchi couple; warm-hearted Kumi and always active Hiroto. Jinpuu was his father’s company, and Hiroto took the lead when he retired, and also Kumi worked at the office. Hiroto was a leader who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty; he shoveled soil, climbed high on the trees and sweated with us at the Tokyo site.


Hiroto was a hardworking, funny and generous man. Every morning he took his moped, drove to a convenient store to fetch us coffees; he treated me uncountably number of lunches, dinners, snacks and beverages. Kumi helped me so many ways during my apprenticeship at Jinpuu: she took me to a hairdresser, sent several boxes full of my stuff to Finland and introduced me to WonderREX second hand shop. (Come to think of it, WonderREX may be the reason I had to send some of those boxes!)


Hiroto loved his family; he always had time for his two boys. We had a lot of farewell parties and company events, and the kids always joined the crew. Jinpuu was a tight community, and they all made sure that I fit in. 


A huge WonderREX!


30-1 Koshiate, Mobara, Chiba 297-0007, Japan

総合リサイクルショップ WonderREX 茂原店

〒 297 – 0007 千葉県茂原市腰当 30 – 1