Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gotochi Travel Blog: Hokkaido, Part I

There were many surprises in store for me on this leg of the tour. When I thought of Hokkaido, I always thought of volcanoes, national parks, snow, and the Ainu people. The gotochi for Hokkaido don't show any of those things. But, since I set out on this journey to discover Japan via gotochi, I tried to remain faithful to that. So, even though I thought I would visit Hokkaido in the middle of the summer, I went in May, so I could see the Lilac Festival in Sapporo.

Lilacs are actually some of my favorite flowers. At home, they bloom around the end of April, just in time for my birthday. It's a bit colder in Hokkaido so it takes them a little longer. This was the 55th year of the Lilac Festival in Oodoori Park, which spans the middle of downtown. There are at least 3 other festivals at Oodoori park that are more famous than this one. The lilac festival is actually a lot more than just blooming flowers, though. There were a bunch of musical performances, food stalls, tea ceremony, and even a flea market. Unfortunately, this event is so non-famous that even the official website doesn't have any decent pictures to showcase.

But! One of the things they sold at the food stalls was Hokkaido sweet corn. Naturally.

famous Hokkaido corn
Photo by Justin Cozart

Hokkaido sweet corn is called "toukibi." It's roasted and covered in butter and soy sauce.

There was one place in Sapporo I still needed to see: the clock tower.
The American-made clock tower is one of the oldest buildings in Sapporo and one of the few remaining western-style buildings there. Built in 1878, it was part of the drill hall of Sapporo Agricultural College. The clock still keeps the time and chimes every hour.

札幌時計台 Sapporo Clock Tower
Photo by Autan

Stay tuned for a bit more controversy (maybe) in the next Hokkaido post.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gotochi Travel Blog: Nagano, Part II

From Matsumoto we went to Kamikochi, which is inside Chubu Sangaku National Park. No private cars are allowed inside the park and we had to take a bus from Matsumoto Station. The bus station had a food stall selling some yummy snacks I had never tasted before - oyaki.
Oyaki are kind of like Chinese baozi, but the dough is made with buckwheat flour and they are stuffed with all kinds of goodies. My favorite is kabocha squash!

Kamikochi is high in the Japanese Alps, surrounded by Nishihotakadake (2909 m), Okuhotakadake (3190 m), Maehotakadake (3090 m) and the active volcano Yakedake (2455 m).

Misty Morning in Kamikochi
Photo by Joi

A short walk from the bus terminal is Kappabashi, a suspension bridge over the Azusa River. A kappa is an imaginary creature said to be human-like but in reptilian skin. It lives in water and lures unsuspecting visitors in so it can eat their livers. We didn't see any kappa there, though. We mostly saw trees - deep forests of Keshou Yanagi (a kind of willow, Chosenia arbutifolia) and Japanese larch trees surround the bridge.

We hiked further in, to the tranquil Myojin Pond. We stayed overnight at a little lodge called Kamonjigoya and spent the whole next day hiking.

Kamikochi On A Cloudy Day
Photo by Les Taylor

Photo by Kazuhiko Teramoto

Vein of the Leaves
Photo by Maiko Aizawa

I was hoping to see a wild kamoshika, because the website for Kamikochi has a picture of one, and it's on one of the Nagano gotochi.
But we didn't. The English name for kamoshika is Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus). They look kind of like a cross between a goat and an antelope. Maybe next time I'll see one...

Speaking of next time, leave me a comment and tell me which prefecture you think I should visit in my next fake travel blog!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gotochi Travel Blog: Nagano, Part I

My tour of all 47 prefectures of Japan via ご当地フォルムカード (regional shaped cards) begins in Nagano. First, we visited Matsumoto castle in the city of Matsumoto.

Matsumoto Castle is also called Karasu-Jou or "Crow Castle" because of its black exterior. Along with Himeji Castle, Inuyama Castle, and Hikone Castle, Mastumoto Castle is designated a National Treasure of Japan. It dates from the 16th century, and the keep still has its original wooden interior and stone exterior. Inside the castle is a gun museum.

Photo by Haru

During the Meiji period, the keep started to lean to one side. People said it was because of the curse of Tada Kasuke. Tada and a group of other farmers met at Kumano shrine in 1686 about an exorbitant tax increase. They brought their letter of appeal Matsumoto Castle expecting to turn it in peacefully to the magistrate, but when the peasants heard about his plan, they revolted, robbing stores and attacking the merchants. The executives of the domain agreed to lower the taxes, but a few weeks later Tada and the other farmers were arrested and executed without trial. (The keep was actually structurally deficient at the time, but the story is more interesting. Good thing the keep has since been restored, because we climbed all the way to the top!)

We went to the castle by bicycle from the train station, so I was quite hungry by the time we got back to town. The area is famous for two foodstuffs: basashi (raw horse meat) and wasabi (home to the world's largest wasabi farm). I passed on both and got a big bowl of soba (buckwheat) noodles instead, my fave. For dessert we picked up some delicious Nagano apples from the shopping arcade.

Apple cultivation in Nagano dates from 1874, when the Ministry of the Interior delivered three apple seedlings to Nagano. Mmmm.

Shinshu Ringo
Photo by jpellgen

Next stop: Kamikouchi.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Alkmaar, Netherlands

Alkmaar cheese market
This one was sent in an envelope. :(

Alkmaar cheese market

Alkmaar is located in the province of North Holland. Edam cheese is made here, and every Friday morning from April to September they have a cheese market, which is mainly a show for tourists. In fact, you can't even buy cheese at the cheese market - it is just a demonstration of how the market used to work in the old days. Alkmaar also has a cheese museum.

I've been postcrossing for about 4 years and these are the only two cards I've ever received from Alkmaar. I got them within 2 weeks of each other.

 Stamps from 2003 (left), 2002 (middle) and 2010 (right).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Glen Canyon, Utah

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Slot Canyon, Utah

From mmtnsage for the vacation RR.

Slot canyons are very narrow canyons that are taller than they are wide, formed when rivers carve a path into the rock over time. They can be found across the American Southwest as well as in other countries. For example, the Siq, a slot canyon in Petra, Jordan was a location for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Slot canyons can be dangerous to hike in because of the danger of drowning in flash floods.

The 2011 definitive for the domestic postcard rate, showing sage (Salvia officinalis).

Love Horses, Ukraine


Sender Ksenia writes that this is scenery from eastern Crimea. Crimea is an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine.

 These are from the 2010 Europa issue on children's books. The blue one with the horse is "mare's head" and the golden one with the people is "gold shoe."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Lunar New Year - Year of the Snake

A Japanese new year card featuring this year's zodiac animal, the snake.

I know I am a bit late, but I figure it's still okay to wish everyone a happy Lunar New Year 2013 - Heisei 25.
Thanks Lara. ♥

Two definitive stamps.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Lääne-Virumaa, Estonia


Lääne-Virumaa is one of the 15 counties of Estonia. It was settled in prehistoric times by the Vironians,  a Finnic tribe. Twelve landscape preserves and 3 state nature reserves are located at least partially in the county.

According to the county's English website:

"The development of the Estonian culture and population has been directed and influenced by the sea. According to the common law, every kind of profit gained from the sea is lawful and so the profession of coast watchers is well-known since ancient times: he was a man, who kept watch on a high shore, lit signal fires, informed about ship accidents and the arrival of the enemy, observed the movements of fish shoals. The villages were situated away from the coastline then, because of the lack of farmland near the sea and also to avoid the frequent looting raids from the ships. Fish was mainly caught from inland waters, coastal fishing took place only during the spring and autumn seasons."

I got this card from Eellaa for the favorites tag. Looks like a lovely place to visit... picnic in the poppy fields, go out on the water in the little boat in the foreground...

The stamp on the right is a Christmas stamp from 2002. The stamp on the left is from 1996.

Welsh Countryside

Getting well immersed in the countryside...

I got this card from my brother when he was on a bike trip in the U.K. He wrote that this was him one night wild camping in a Welsh forest.

The stamp is from a 2011 set of ten and features Daisy from the children's cartoon Thomas the Tank Engine.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday, hosted by Beth. Click on the icon to visit her blog and join in.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia

North Gate of Angkor Thom
North Gate of Angkor Thom

I bought this card on my trip to Cambodia in January 2012. Angkor Thom is one of the temples of the Angkor complex, surrounded by four gates, one facing each of the cardinal directions. Each one is crowned by four faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

I have been having a very hard time lately and tonight is no exception. So, I decided to post a few cards that remind me of happy things, and this is one of them.

Here is my favorite photo of one of the gates of Angkor Thom.  That's my tuktuk driver and tour guide, Pheng, in the picture. He took good care of me and I know I would not have had as good a time without him.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gomel, Belarus


Blurry photo of an ugly building. Quite honestly, I don't know why someone would even produce a card like this, let alone purchase it. One of the things I have on my wishlist is the sender's favorite place in their country, and the sender of this card states that they chose this one because they like Gomel very much. I am sure they do, but I am still mystified why they would choose this ugly card to represent a place that has a number of nice places.

However, the sender did write me a nice message and used lots of stamps. :)

The green ones are a 2012 definitive from the series on architectural monuments, this particular one being Niasvizh Castle, a UNESCO site in the city of Niasvizh. The purple one in the middle is from the same set, this one showing the Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle  in the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi. The flower on the right is a lily from a 2008 set on garden flowers.

Dutch horse


The sender of this card says "On the front a wild horse in a Dutch setting." Surprisingly, there are wild (well, feral) horses in the Netherlands, but the horse on this card does not really fit the phenotype. Nevertheless, a really nice card. :) Thanks Yoyce for checking my wishlist.

The stamp is from 2011, a definitive on "environmentally conscious life."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Vancouver, Canada

Stanley Park, Vancouver
Stanley Park

Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, more than 10% larger than New York's Central Park, is ranked 6th best park in North America (and 16th best in the world!)*. Historically, the area of the park was the territory of the Squamish First Nations tribe. The British took it for a military installation in the 1860s, but agreed to let the Vancouver city council turn it into a park in 1888. It was named for Governor General of Canada Lord Stanley, who visited the park to dedicate it "to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time," notwithstanding the First Nations people who were still living there.

These totem poles now stand at Brockton Point, a site of a former First Nations settlement.

*Read the list of the world's best and worst parks here.

I sent this card to myself when I was in Vancouver in 2011 for the folk festival, so I made sure to get some nice stamps. :)

These are both commemoratives from 2011. The left one features the Year of the Rabbit, and the right one is on Canadian national parks.

Talk Like A South African

Talk like a South African
Private swap with Lori.

Lori reports that at least 4 languages are represented here: English, Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa. South Africa has a total of eleven official languages. (The others are Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, and Venda.)

As some of you know, I am studying speech-language pathology and yesterday I had my first session as a primary clinician. It took me 3.5 hours to write up the results in my SOAP note. It was not a good night.

Today I am better. It only took me 1 hour to write my lesson plan for the next session tomorrow. So I can relax and think about postcards for a little bit. Even language-related ones.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mowgli and Baloo

Mowgli and Baloo
Mowgli and Baloo

Who could imagine a jungle as jazzy as in The Jungle Book -- or a more free-wheeling, upbeat buddy than Baloo? His lighthearted relationship with Mowgli reminds us that friendship and laughter really are among the "bare necessities of life." (from the back of the card)

I haven't watched The Jungle Book in a very long time. I remember being very frightened of Shere Khan, and bewildered by the orangutans. I love this card. I could use a hug like that.

This is a USPS-issued stamped card from the 2008 issue of The Art of Disney: Friendship. Can I just say, that 2008 was a fabulous year for USPS stamps? Of course I started postcrossing in 2009, when the stamps were NOT as nice.

From VAgirl for the USPS card tag.

The 27-cent is preprinted on the card. The 2-cent definitive was added to make up the additional postage since the card was mailed in 2011.

St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg Hallway
"St. Petersburg hallway"

From daarhan for the June 2010 RR.

The stamps on the left are definitives. On the right is a 2007 stamp of Sergey Korolev, from a set of 3 on "50th anniversary of the space epoque of Mankind."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Black Forest, Germany

costume of Black Forest
DE-1676400 from Panagiota

This woman is sporting the traditional clothing of the Black Forest region of Germany. The Black Forest is located in the state of Baden-Württemburg in southwestern Germany. The moniker "Black Forest" is said to refer to the dense conifers which block out most sunlight from above. According to the sender, the pompom hat is called a bollenhut. Red pompoms are for unmarried women, and black ones for married women. These hats are very valuable because they are made by an ever-decreasing number of skilled seamstresses and milliners, and they are considered a symbol of the Black Forest. Such costumes are still worn for some cultural events in the Black Forest.

Thanks very much Panagiota for this great card!

No new stamp. Part of the postmark has also made it onto the front of the postcard, but since it doesn't obscure the picture I actually kind of like it. You can tell this card travelled and had some adventures on its way to me. :)

For a hot night

For a Hot Night...

From nezzukka for the "will you send me..." tag. This is a card in a series of "Sheepworld," which is originally German, although I've also gotten ones in Finnish and Polish. I saw these cards when I was in Germany in August but unfortunately couldn't afford to buy very many of them, although I did spring for a Sheepworld calendar that I can enjoy for 12 more months.

A gift certificate for a hot night!
Candles: very hot
Chocolate: very hot
Me: extremely hot

From a 2011 set of five stamps celebrating the centenary of Finnish designer Kaj Franck.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Melbourne, Australia

painted bathing boxes, Brighton, Melbourne
Brighton Beach - AU-151930.

This is a good example of a "surprise" card (not on my wishlist) that I like. Bright colors, interesting idea.

"Painted bathing boxes, a legacy of nineteenth-century beach culture, provide a decorative backdrop at Brighton, one of Melbourne's most popular bayside suburbs," according to the back of the card. Bathing boxes, also known as beach huts, are shelters above the high-tide line where the owners can change clothes, store items, or even prepare food and hot drinks. The ones at Brighton have existed at least as far back as 1862!

Baby dingo!! From a 2011 set of 5 "Australian Bush Babies."



I got this lovely map of Portugal from Ferro for the vacation RR. I think my favorite map cards are those that show the countours of the land like this one, like real maps. The various views show different things about Portugal, in fact a couple of them are pictures I have received as full-size cards. I've posted one of them here.

Om nom nom. One of a set of six stamps featuring Portuguese cheeses, issued in 2010. This one is São Jorge.