an island hop

Ok that’s it, from now on we travel in the off season, I know the weather’s gonna be crap and I know that we may not see the place at it’s “best”, but you know what there is something to be said for the lack of crowds and the unpredictable weather! I have to make a small confession though, I do have a bit of a thing for stormy skies and strong winds. Living in Tokyo though has also given a bit of a pain in the arse when it comes to crowds!

So we just had mid-winter break, it’s short and resembles more of a long weekend, but it’s holiday and time to spend exploring together. I always tell the kids it’s another adventure and life is full of them if you open your eyes. So we had to pick where to go, now here I am going to have to confess (yet again) that I am a very lucky woman, I am married to a man with a travellers soul, when we are on holiday he knows where to go and what to see, when we are trying to decide on where to go he has endless options for us and a temptation to go to every single one! This man cannot sit still! I didn’t know he was a wonderer when I met him but it’s one of those things that make him him and I love it!

So back to choosing, we opted for somewhere where there would be no crowds, thats the thing about Japan its a gorgeous country, but trying to find a quiet slice of it is hard work, the Japanese love to travel and they travel within Japan a lot! So we looked at what most people do for mid-winter break and found out that that was things such as skiing, or going to see the snow monkeys (in the thousands). So we looked in the opposite direction and decided to travel to the islands of Ishigaki, Taketomi and Iriomote, which belong to the Yaeyama Island group. There are 12 islands in total in the group and we saw 3 of them. Japan is a big place! The Yaeyama Islands are the remotest part of Japan from the main islands and contains Japan’s most southern and most western inhabited islands. Ishigaki is the second largest in the group and is the one we flew into and where we placed our bags. It has that island feel but it still has a very strong organised, clean and well functioning Japanese feel to it, I would not call it a relaxed island getaway, but it is beautiful with its coral covered coast line and tropical rainforest interior.

Our first stop was inevitable with kids, it was the hotel beach!

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 Writing this now and posting these photographs while sitting at home with two ill kids makes me want to hop straight back on a plane!

For our first adventure the wind was howling and the skies were stormy, Lisa kept crying because the wind would blow her over but daddy was there to keep her safe, which is lucky cause mommy was stuck behind the big black box again!

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One morning we got up and out early to catch the ferry to Taketomi island. This was my favourite of the 3 islands and would definitely make a fun 2 night stay! The beaches on this island are white sand and turquoise waters and they below in magazine brochures. Going in the off season meant that there were not a lot of people on the beach and we could stay and play for a while and I could snap away at the scene in front of me.

I will confess something here (I seem to be doing that a lot lol) but I am a picture taker and not a photo maker, I know that it should be the other way around but for now this is where I am, I have one eye on the scene, one hand on the camera and the other eye and hand on the kids lol! So for the moment I will need to be content with snapping!

Anyway back to Taketomi, well worth a visit and you can walk around the whole island it is that small, however if you are a little more lazy or in need of some adventure you can tour the island by water buffalo drawn carts. The village itself is small and all the houses are made of stone it is a good place to meander around and has a lot of little funky pieces of character to be found.

Once upon a time before I arrived in Japan and I was surfing the web doing some research about the country before arriving a stupid clueless foreigner, I came across a book called “memoirs of a vending machine” which I thought was really odd until I actually started travelling around Japan and now I completely understand – its a Japanese thing and I am now in love with vending machines myself! – If you want to know why well you better visit Japan then!

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So how many people are scared of Japanese food? Come on raise your hands! I am always surprised by how many people are worried about food in Japan, I have lived in many different countries now and I have to admit I am honestly never worried about food in Japan! There may be some funky things here and there, and things that I cannot honestly figure out what they are, but I will try most things and my adventurous other half will try everything! Travelling with kids though I know can be a little daunting but to be honest I believe its good to expose your kids to many different things and every once in a while they will try something and they will like it and you probably will be shocked! There of course is always rice, I’m lucky that both my kids love sticky rice, there is always fish here which my kids love too and they love little whole fish now too and they love sushi and you can always find fruit!  Japanese food is considered the healthiest in the world and with this countries obsession with cleanness you honestly cannot go wrong, there is a good meal around every corner!

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Well I better wrap this up! I realise this post is looooooong and a complete over share, but you know what I don’t really care haha cause its too much fun!

We did make a trip over to Iriomote island as well but I have no photographs to prove it and there is a silly reason for that, the day we woke up to travel there the wind was howling, I knew that the ferry ride would be longer and I was expecting a big ferry and fun journey with the kids, however the ferry was the same small ferry that had taken us to Taketomi and this time we were travelling in open sea for 40 minutes and my knuckles hurt by the time I got off the boat! It was terrifying, I felt as though I was in a washing machine and although I tried to take photographs to distract myself it was no use so I gave up, clung to my kids and held on for dear life! I have to admit here though that I am a little bit of a wuss and looking around at all my Japanese fellow passengers who were dozing during the trip I feel much more like a wuss than ever before, it didn’t lessen my grip though. Once on the island the wind picked up more and all I could think of was the ferry ride back! The island itself was beautiful, very green and dense and beautifully wild but I was so happy to get my body and my kids and hubbie back onto Ishigaki!

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Back on Ishigaki we had a day and a half more to travel around and explore:

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Time is something we all get in equal amounts, no one can take an hour away from you and no one can give you an extra one, rich or poor we all get the same amount of hours in any day, it is our most precious commodity and we need to cherish it and make the most of it. I hope that you too will get to explore a bit this year and remember that you don’t need to go when it’s considered the “best” time, there is no such thing, enjoy everything with open eyes and an open heart!

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So until the next adventure have fun all of you out there! Here in Japan it is now spring and the Sakura (cherry blossom) season has just ended so summer to close by, the weather is beautiful and the days are bright and there is lots to explore! If you plan on travelling to Japan I highly recommend it, if you have been here before and have posts of your own about some fantastic Japan travel spots please pop a link in the comments cause I would love to see them!

Happy exploring!

NARA | KYOTO – part 2

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, yes I am serious, it is because my kids complain, they don’t want to walk anymore, “no more shrine mommy” they shout at me!!! But there are a few little tricks that make travelling with kids easier, firstly and this is an expensive one – an iPad – honestly I couldn’t travel without one, there is nothing better to entertain a bored child or give a tired parent a break! I also always have snacks hidden somewhere, ranging from lollipops to raisins they are hidden in pockets and bags and prams, they are essential, there is nothing grouchier than a hungry kid, except maybe a hungry husband but thats a whole different problem! I also always have things like straws so I can grab them a drink anywhere, I also have small fit in your hand or pocket sized toys or books. As well as that a scooter is pretty handy, my son complains ALOT when I make him walk all over the place but the scooter makes it that much more fun for him! Walking around Nara and Kyoto it quickly become apparent that we were going to only manage 2 shrines a day tops with the kids, but this is not a bad thing because for starters there are too many shrines and you cannot see them all, its best to pick a few things you really want to see and anything else is just a bonus and secondly it means that you can take your time a bit more in the places you do choose to visit and it helps you see more and experience more of the place! Kids are actually a bit of a blessing at times because you can sit and have a snack and watch the world go by, which without them there you probably wouldn’t do and I have to admit I love me a bit of people watching!

This second and final part of the Nara | Kyoto trip is the Kyoto part.  I am not a huge fan of crowds and that is one downside of Japan, it is very crowded! So we often plan our trips around when the crowds won’t be there, I can handle bad weather but I cannot handle crowds thats just me! Kyoto is a fascinating place though and it is somewhere I will return to again, I would personally love to see it in the snow. It deserves its magical reputation and I can see why every one that visit Japan needs to make a trip to Kyoto!

Jules - Another great post Cassie.

As frustrating as kids can be sometimes, they also help make us slow down and notice things a bit more.

I have that exact image of the Golden Temple.
I love the dramatic grey sky behind it that you have captured. Such a contrast to the bright temple.

Looks like you managed to still see and do a lot even with the kids slowing you down.
The best thing about not getting to see it all this time, you have an excuse to go back!

NARA | KYOTO – part 1

Four and a half hours on a train with the kids, really?! Geez you know I wish we could just drive there! – This is a constant Cassie complaint, I love driving but Japan is not a driver friendly country. But that Shinkansen high speed train is something else, on average it is only 0.08 secs late in an entire year, or something crazy like that! It’s comfortable, it has food and it is stress free, unless you are travelling with two wee little kiddies that is! But you know what, every single time I make a trip I complain for the first 20 mins or so and then the adventure begins and I remember that the journey to and from is as much a part of the experience as anything else, the anticipation of going somewhere new, seeing something wonderful and having a little bit of an adventure is addictive and I love it!

Nara and Kyoto are your Japanese stereotype – they are the two places that every single tourist goes to. Everyone wants to see Kyoto you don’t really hear that much about Nara and I think they often just get talked about as a collective one. But both of them are magical!  The feeling of history and tradition all wrapped up in beauty is why they deserve the reputation they have. I always enjoyed history when I was in school, but I was never really obsessed with it, there always seemed too much to read without enough pictures, Nara and Kyoto though are visual places and just walking around you feel as though you are walking through history and its fascinating.

When I sat editing the photographs I realisust how many I had taken. I have decided to post this in parts because of the overload! So for the first instalment here is Nara, I hope you enjoy seeing it through my eyes and I hope even more that it inspires you to add this place to your travel wish list!

As you will see in the slideshow, we saw a lot of rain! Japan actually gets a lot more rain than I ever expected but I am not a fair weather traveller so it didn’t stop us! You will also see a few little Woody feet here and there, Woody from Toy Story that is, as he took the trip with us, he is a very good traveller! We saw some amazing things on this trip, one of which was the swearing in of the priests at the great Tōdaj-ji shrine, with the chanting and the costumes this was mesmerising, an experience that I will never forget. But let’s wait no more, let the pictures show you:

Jules - Love this post Cassie. I love how you have taken us on the journey with you.
The little details you captured are great and are like the glue that holds the whole story together.
Thanks for sharing!

Your Shot National Geographic

This week was a good photography week for me! I recently joined the National Geographic YourShot community and I love it! I have been a fan of National Geographic since I was a little kid and I still remember being in awe when paging through the magazine! I am still a subscriber today and I still love paging through it in awe!

But this week a picture of my little lady was chosen for a Your Shot assignment called “I heart my city”! I am so proud about it and it really has made my year so far!

Here she is: click on the image for the link

And here is the original:

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So with a smile from ear to ear bring on March and bring on Spring!

a different direction…

Sitting there all wrapped up, warm, cosy, dosed up full of medication, I have a cup of tea in hand and my bum on the couch. I look over and spy my camera. It’s staring at me, it’s saying ‘hello, remember me, you said you were going to take a photograph – REMEMBER’. I pull a face and go back to my tea.

I am ill, for the first time in a very long time I am stuck at home on the couch. I don’t do ill very well, I get bored, very bored, very fast. Another side effect is having too much time to think and I have been thinking. Not surprisingly I have been thinking about photography, I always do!!! Some days I wonder whether that is a blessing or a curse. But I have realised why my 365 project isn’t working for me.

When I thought of taking on a 365 project just under 4 months ago, I told myself, or worse I justified to myself why I was taking it on. Firstly and most importantly I told myself that I was doing it for my kids, that was a complete and utter lie, the only person I was doing this for was me. There is no way my kids want or need the amount of pictures that I was taking of them. As well as that when my kids turned to me with delight or excitement on their faces instead of seeing that mirrored on my face they kept seeing this lifeless big black box. Now my kids don’t mind the camera but that doesn’t mean that I should abuse the privilege either cause things could and probably would change very quickly. I know that many people can balance their photography time during the day, but apparently not me, I am pretty full on or off!

Secondly I told myself I could make a book for my kids at the end of it, a whole year, every single day of their lives! Sounds great and I have seen so many people do it and do it so well! But I know now that that isn’t going to be me. I am happy to document life as it happens, whether that be on a daily basis or a weekly one whatever. I want to be able to add lots of images from trips and travels and lots from special moments or special days or outings etc, I am just not going to be able to stick to the one a day thing. I still think that with organisation by the end of the year I could make a great book or a series of books to keep as a memory of our year! I am sure my kids will love them just as much.

And thirdly I told myself that it would push me and help me to grow and learn as a photographer. I still believe this is a great side effect of a 365  but I have been at this for over 10 years and push myself in many ways that are currently working, so like the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I had to remind myself that photography is not just about clicking the shutter button, all your experiences, all your knowledge, all your views, the way you uniquely see your world influences when you click that shutter and why. You have to grow in every way not just in photography.

Lastly I have realised that I want to live my life as well as document it. There is a balance I need to find between photography and living and I vow to myself and to my kids to find that balance as best I can! Not every single moment needs to be a picture. And finally you know what I am just not good when I feel I have to do something haha -its called a problem with authority! 2014 is going to be a great year, full of projects and full of fun and most importantly – absolutely no rules!:)

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