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Monday, May 29, 2017

The Fort Worth Japanese Garden—a Place for Meditation

In Japan, a tea garden or stroll garden offers more than a place to cultivate favorite plants.  It provides a place for meditation, relaxation, repose and a feeling of tranquility.  A typical Japanese tea garden can be viewed from my previous article:
Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience
 Yoshiki-en Garden is located in Nara, Japan, which is one of the places that I have visited in Kansai area last year.  You can read all of the articles here.

History[1]


The Fort Worth Japanese Garden outstanding was completed in 1973. The garden was originally the site of an old gravel pit.  Few changes were made to the existing terrain in an effort to capitalize on every existing stone and tree.

It is a traditional stroll Garden with winding paths through the landscapes and around ponds. The Garden consists of 7.5 acres of filled with cherry trees, Japanese maples, magnolias, bamboo, bridges, and ponds which are home to over 1,200 Koi fish.

Admissions / Hours


The following admission fees are based on the information from 05/2017.  To confirm, call the Japanese Garden office: 817-871-7685.

Adults $7.00
Seniors $5.00 (ages 65 and up)
Children $4.00 (ages 4 - 12)1
Free with Fort Worth Botanical Society Membership

Notes:
  1. Children ages 3 and under are free.  Un-escorted children under 13 are not admitted; one adult may escort 5 children.
The following opening hours are for your reference.  To confirm, go to www.fwjg.org.

Winter Open Every Day from 9 am to 5 pm
Summer
Open Every Day from 9 am to 7 pm

Notes:
  1. Last entrance—30 minutes before closing
  2. Open all major holidays except Christmas

Photos








References

  1. The Fort Worth Japanese Garden
  2. Events at Fort Worth Botanic Garden
  3. Japan Travel (Travel for a Purpose)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Caddo Lake State Park—a Picturesque Cypress Swamp in East Texas

In a previous article, I have described a unique experience of meeting three people — two Canadians and one Japanese — in Uji, Japan and I have dubbed them as "Instagram Friends".[1]

One of the Canadians, she, was excited to mention Caddo Lake best of Japanto me as one of her dream locations to visit after learning that I'm from Texas.  Caddo Lake is not only known to the foreigners, but also it's one of the favorite photogenic places known to Dallas-area Photographic Societies.


Overview[2]


Caddo Lake State Park is named for Caddo Lake, a sprawling maze of bayous and sloughs covering 26,810 acres (10,850 ha) of cypress swamp. The average depth of the lake is 8–10 ft (2.4–3.0 m), with the deep water in the bayou averaging about 20 ft (6.1 m). An angler's delight, the lake contains 71 species of fish. Naturalists can enjoy stately cypress trees, American lotus, water lilies, waterfowl, alligators, turtles, frogs, snakes, raccoons, mink, coypu, beavers, squirrels, armadillos, and white-tailed deer.

How to Access


Caddo Lake State Park can only be accessed by car.  It will take about 3-4 hours drive from Dallas area.  On the way to Caddo Lake, there is no clear sign telling you where it is until you reach Harrison County.  Therefore, unless you have a good GPS device or a detailed map, it's nontrivial to get there for the first-time visitors.  On the way there, you may also visit Jefferson一a historic city in Marion County.

When to Visit


Besides choosing a sunny day to visit, you would also like to visit Caddo Lake in a calm day. Why?  The reason is that when it's windy, the water will be murky and the tree reflection on the water will not be clear.  Also, you won't be able to reach farther out from Mill Pond in the canoe.

Activities


You can rent a canoe from the Park Office.  At the office, you will get two keys from the rental一 one for the canoe and one for the paddle shack.  Based on the instruction from the Park Ranger, you drive a bit down the road to the bridge.  After putting on life jacket and picking up paddles, you go to the canoe to unlock it from the chain and drag it down to the waterside.

After you finish, you just return everything back to their original postions and then drive back to the Park Office to return the keys.  The rental fee is based on hours and three hours is recommended if you want to have a relaxing experience.

If you decide to visit, you could also consider to stay there overnight in one of their cabins. But, if it's weekend, you are required to book  at least two nights (i.e, Fri and Sat nights).  There are also nice hiking trails in the park.  However, they are not well marked.

Photos











References

  1. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  2. Caddo Lake State Park
  3. Caddo Lake State Park, Texas [Official] (video)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Preview of ZimSculpt Exhibit at Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Today I have visited Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens with friends again.  Hope to capture the last glimpse of tulip's bloom season. Probably due to the hot climate, we didn't see any bloom of tulips at this time of the season.  However, we were surprisingly awarded another gem at the Garden—the international renowned ZimSculpt exhibit.

ZimSculpt featuring exquisite sculptures of several dozen contemporary Zimbawean artists are displayed throughput the garden.  Famous ZimSculpt collectors  include Prince Charles, who opened the first major exhibition in the United Kingdom at the Barbican Centre in the 1980s, the Rockefellers, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover and the later Michael Jackson.

The official exhibit of ZimSculpt is from April 15 to July 31.  During this period, more than 100 hand selected, modern sculptures will be displayed throughout the garden.

Without much ado, I will show some of the photos I have captured at the Garden today.












































See Also:

  1. Aboremtum and Botanical Garden in Dallas
  2. Aboretum and Botanical Garden Dallas Part 2
  3. Aboretum and Botanical Garden Dallas Part 3

Monday, January 16, 2017

庭屋一如—House and Garden Merged into One World in Japan

In the previous article, I have introduced the satoyama in Japan:
Traditionally, Japanese people regard the concept of "human beings are part of nature" deeply—so deep that they even bring nature closer to their daily lives.

In this article, I will cover the concept of
庭屋一如(ていおくいちにょ)
with which Japanese people design their buildings such that garden (庭) and house (屋) are merged into one world (or bring the outdoors inside).

Away from the Nature


In modern days, city dwellers live or work comfortably within their own confines (e.g., apartments or offices), but very far away from the Nature.  Sometimes kids living in the city never know how their food items are grown or look like in the farms.

In [2], host Peter Barakan said that it took them one-hour train ride from Tokyo to their location for filming satoyama. Besides distance, there are other deterring factors that prevent us from fully enjoy the Nature.  For instances, sometimes wildness could be swamped with pests (e.g., mosquitoes) or could be located at high altitude and the temperature is low, etc.

In satoyama, even woodlands cannot be left as is and need to be managed or maintained regularly (i..e, unwanted weeds to be removed and trees to be cut in proper distances, etc.).  To live in harmony with nature (e.g., as in satoyama), lots of labors are needed.

Closer to the Nature


For people living in rural areas, they are able to live closer to the Nature.  However, most of us living in urban areas are remote from the Nature.  To allow city dwellers to be able to enjoy the Nature too, the concept of
  • 庭屋一如(ていおくいちにょ)
has been introduced to the landscaping and architecture design in Japan.

Japanese Gardens


Japanese culture has created many styles of garden—ranging from tea gardens, to the dry gardens of Zen Buddhism, to pocket gardens of the city dwellers.  The aim of garden designs mainly focus on bringing the outdoors inside and let the breaths of nature pervade the building.  So, from the comfort zones of daily life, Japanese people can still enjoy the nature and achieve the maximum relaxation.










Photo Credits


References

  1. Satoyama (Wikipedia)
  2. Satoyama (Japanology)
  3. Japanese Gardens (Japanology)
  4. Tea Garden in Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) of Nara
  5. PRIME JAPAN~日本のこころに出会う~ #02日本旅館 Trailer (Youtube)
  6. PRIME JAPAN (Amazon Prime) 
  7. 貝聿銘 |美秀美術館 (in Chinese)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Satoyama — Where People Live in Harmony with Nature in Japan




Satoyama (里山)


Satoyama (里山) in Japanese means a rural landscape (e.g., woodlands, rice paddies,[2] or even people's backyard[3]) where people work and live alongside the natural world.   In the above video, host Peter Barakan says the word Satoyama (里山) is pretty much like the word Countryside in English—where the human society intersects with the nature. Or, as Professor Kevin Short in the film also describes:
Satoyama is the landscape in which the culture and wildlife of the people overlaps with the natural habitats of the ecosystem.  It is the natural landscape that people in Japan had built up over the millennia (over 2 or 3 thousand years) and locals understand the need to live in harmony with the nature and not to exploit it.  Because people use the land in a sustainable manner, it also supports a rich biodiversity.
To recap, the most important aspect of satoyama is people living in harmony with nature.

The Crisis of Satoyama


The problem with satoyama is —Satoyama is not quite like wilderness.  It's beautiful in one sense; but, not spectacular.

For many Japanese, satoyama is the kind of landscape they see in all their lives.  They see it so much and they are so used to it that they don't think it as an important cultural or natural treasure.  Not until  satoyama is disappearing to some extents, have people started to realize the importance of preserving it.

A great photographer named  Mitsuhiko Imamori has played an important role of spreading the interests and knowledge of the satoyama around Japan.  The idea of "Slow Living"—emerging yourselves for the natural world and growing your own foods—is a buzzword in Japan recently.

Special tours are organized for children.  The aim of programs is to give kids the full experiences of the satoyama environment.    Gaining first-time experiences of slow living stimulates people's appreciation for the access of nature offered by satoyama.  In many corners of Japan, it has been making a headway to ensure the charm of satoyama remains alive.

Videos


Without much ado, I'll let you enjoy some of the best videos conveying the concepts of satoyama.

Secret Water Garden


Life in a Vibrant Satoyama Forest

Satoyama—the Traditional Japanese Lifestyle

Satoyama—Living in Harmony with Nature

Harvest time in Satoyama

References

  1. Satoyama (Wikipedia)
  2. Rice paddies (video)
    • The biggest differences between western's natural landscapes and Asian's natural landscapes is the wet rice paddies.  For centuries, rice paddies are used to grow rice and it also serves as an environment that animals (birds, turtles, and frogs)  can forage and hunt, whose activities in the paddies help to enrich the soil.
  3. Secret Water Garden
  4. A cultivated pond shimmering with dragonflies Satoyama
  5. Niyodo River Pure water of the gods
  6. Satoyama
  7. Satoyama Japan's Secret Water Garden
  8. Crime In The Fields: How Monsanto And Scofflaw Farmers Hurt Soybeans In Arkansas
  9. Premium wildlife and nature stock photos (Mitsuhiko Imamori)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area

In this article, I will cover how to ride a bus in central Kyoto and nearby areas (e.g., Ohara and Arashiyama).  First, you may want to download this route map (in Japanese) provided by www.kyotobus.jp.

From 岩倉実相院 to 大原


Here is a case study—how to ride a bus from 岩倉実相院 to 大原 by route map.  Click below map to enlarge.


There is no direct bus route from 岩倉実相院 (at left center of the map) to 大原 (at top right of the map).  In this case, you need to take bus 21 or 23 (green line) to 花園橋 (at bottom center of the map) and then transfer to bus 16-19 (red lines) or bus 96 (green line) to 大原.

Notice that from 岩倉実相院 to 花園橋, there is another bus stop named 花園町 which differs from 花園橋 only by the third character of name.  Don't get off at 花園町 as the mistake that I have made.  Finally, to take bus 16-19, you also need to walk across the street.  So, if you cannot find the connecting bus stop after you get off the first bus, check it the stop is located across the street.

How to ride a bus



Normally, there are no English displays or announcements on the local bus and there are different ticketing systems depending on bus companies.  However, most bus systems in Kyoto area operate similarly in the following ways:
  1. Buses are boarded through the back door and exited from the front door.
    • Payment is made at the front when you exit
  2. When entering, pick up a numbered ticket (see above photo) from a small machine next to the door. If you use an IC card to pay the fare, touch your card against the sensor. 
    • Rechargeable IC cards such as SUICA, ICOCA and PITAPA can be used on all Kyoto City and Kyoto Buses. Outside the flat fare zone you should touch your card to an IC card reader when you enter the bus and again on your way out.
  3. A display above the driver shows the next stop and the fares for that stop in yen. 
    • To determine your fare, match the number on your ticket with the number and fare on the display. If you use an IC card, then you do not need to worry about this. 
    • For example, the number I got was "6" (means zone "6") and it matches the fare of 160 yen at that time (see below photo).  
      • However, the fare will increase from stop to stop.  The farther you ride, the higher the fare will become.  One time I have prepared the fare displayed when the bus stopped at the one before my destination.  However, when the bus started, the fare immediately change to a higher fare.
  4. When your stop is approaching, press one of the buttons on the wall to signal the driver that you wish to get off at the next stop. 
  5. You should pay with the exact fare. If you do not have the exact fare, use the changing machine to get small coins. 
    • In this case, 1000 yen notes become handy.  
    • None of the buses or trains I have taken in Kansai region accept credit cards (it's cash only).
  6. When getting off, put your ticket and the exact fare into the box next to the driver. If you use an IC card, touch the card against the reader near the driver.

If the bus run in the central Kyoto (the flat fare zone is marked on the map with a red line), a flat fare (230 yen in 2016) applies. In other words, you will pay the same price no matter how far you travel with the bus.  Some bus terminals have ticket booth, it's recommended to buy your paper ticket in advance especially when you carry luggage(s).  At 大原 (Ohara) bus terminal, it also has coin lockers to store away your luggage(s).  But, not sure if all bus terminals have coin lockers or not.

Please read the following article for more details:
Taking a Bus in Kyoto

References

  1. Taking a bus in Kyoto
  2. Kansai airport limousine bus between Kansai airport and Kobe
  3. Kansai airport limousine bus between Kansai airport and Nara
  4. Arukumachi kyoto route planner (bus and train)
  5. Utilizing Storage Locker
    • コイン ロッカ (coin locker) — あり (yes)
  6. 京都バス
  7. Local Buses (important)
  8. お得な乗車券 (Discount Bus Tickets; in Japanese)
  9. Kyoto Bus Route Map (pdf)
  10. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Unique Hiking Experience on Fudo-Zaka Slope (不動坂) in Koyasan (高野山)

Koyasan (高野山), a popular pilgrimage destination for centuries, has been connected to the outside world by a network of pilgrimage trails. While most visitors enter the mountain by cable car nowadays, many of the pilgrimage trails still remain in use.

Part of the pilgrimage trails, the Fudozaka Trail (不動坂; click the map to enlarge), leads to Koyasan from Gokurakubashi Station, the lower station of the Koyasan Cablecar. The steep, paved trail is 2.5 kilometers long and takes about an hour to ascend and less time to descend. The trail ends at the Nyonindo temple (女人堂).[1]

On 11/27/2016, I have decided to descend from Fudozaka Trail instead of riding the cable car.  I was the only person on the trail at beginning.  However, in the middle of the trail, another young blonde girl passed me by swiftly with a big smile on her face.  I was really surprised to see another soul on that rainy day.  Although I was late for the peak colors, I could still tell the autumn views could be awesome about two weeks earlier on that trail.


Fudo-Zaka Slope (不動坂)


After you pass the Nyonindo Temple (女人堂), keep on walking along the bus route.  After about 100 feet away, you can spot a security booth in the front.  Then, you take the trail to the right and begin the descend.

Nyonindo Temple (女人堂)

Front View from Nyonindo Temple (女人堂)


The Forest View along Fudo-zaka Slope (不動坂)

Koyasan Cable Car

Gokuraku-Bashi


The Train Station View from Bridge

References

  1. Pilgrimage Trails
  2. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience
  3. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  4. Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association
  5. Koyasan Travel: Garan
  6. Koyasan Travel: Okunoin Temple
  7. Japan Travel: Why and How to Use the ATM? (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. 高野山の情報
  9. 高野山 金剛峯寺 Koyasan Kongobuji
  10. Japan: Best Autumn Color Spots near Kyoto (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  12. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  13. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience
  14. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience
  15. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience
  16. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  17. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  18. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)