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22 Fun Photos from Our Adventures in Hagi, Japan

May 7, 2014

Hagi bus

This blog is a hard balancing act.

One on hand, I want to be open with you about my family: not only does this help me share my ideas about bilingual kids more effectively, I know that a personal look at our lives makes this site more engaging than if I simply offered these ideas without revealing much about us.

On the other hand, when I began this blog (back in September 2012), my wife insisted that I maintain their privacy by using made-up names and not showing their faces. I agreed, and have respected this rule ever since, though it’s also true that there are times I feel constrained, particularly when it comes to posting photos.

So lately I’ve been pondering ways that I might stretch this rule just a bit: ways to be more personal and yet still preserve their privacy. By sharing our experiences in richer detail, I’m hoping I can create more context for you and make my blog posts more meaningful.

22 photos from Hagi, Japan

Today I’d like to test one possible solution: a series of photos that avoid revealing their identity, and yet will offer a colorful glimpse of our life here in Japan. These pictures were taken last weekend during a short getaway to a town called Hagi, which lies on the Sea of Japan and is located about three hours by car from Hiroshima. Hagi is a remarkable place—one of my favorite spots in the world, to be honest—and I’d like to guide you on a virtual tour of our time there.

Map of Western Japan

1. A castle town
Hagi Castle is long gone—only the walls, behind Lulu there, remain—but it was once a powerful castle town, with warlords, samurai, merchants, and other residents thriving here during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Hagi Castle

2. In the moat
The moat around the remains of the castle are teeming with turtles and colorful Japanese carp.

Castle moat

3. Feeding pigeons
To feed the fish and turtles, small bags of food are available from small shops on the castle grounds. Of course, where there’s free food, you’ll find pigeons, too. Here I am, with several pigeons pecking from my hand. (Roy is there beside me, but Lulu is far out of the frame: she wouldn’t come close because she’s deathly afraid of pigeons, a phobia that seems to have started when a pigeon pooped on her a few years ago.)

Feeding pigeons

4. Historic streets
Not far from the castle grounds is the old samurai quarter, with its well-preserved buildings, walls, wooden gates, and small gardens. It’s a lovely, peaceful area, and roaming these historic streets in the spring sunshine was like a slice of heaven.

Historic streets

5. Riding bikes
Now that Lulu and Roy are both a bit older, we were able to rent bicycles and explore the city more widely. (The last time we were there, Roy was still just a toddler.)

Riding bikes

6. Shrine gate
A quiet old shrine is tucked behind the ancient stone work and gnarled trees that mark the entrance.

Shrine gate

7. Old waterway
This waterway was created centuries ago and served to bring water right up to the houses, for washing and bathing, before the advent of modern plumbing.

Old waterway

8. Pottery shop
Along with its historic charms, Hagi is known as a longtime center of pottery making in Japan. Shops such as this one are found throughout town and it’s great fun browsing the beautiful pottery. The fact that art lives in the city’s soul is one of the things I admire about it. (We came home with a number of nice cups and plates to add to our growing collection!)

Pottery shop

9. Rivers in town
Several rivers flow through town, too, with boats carrying visitors on sightseeing tours.

Rivers in Hagi

10. Sightseeing boat
Lulu gives a friendly wave as a sightseeing boat passes by. Along this river bank stand huge old pine trees, too big to capture with our camera.

Sightseeing boat

11. Orange trees
The orange trees of Hagi are another appealing aspect of the town. A large type of orange—called natsumikan—seems to grow everywhere. Even on tiny trees, no taller than knee-high, you can find big, juicy oranges! (The leaping monkeys are trying to bite one off the tree.)

Orange trees

12. Hungry hawks
At a large pond on the outskirts of town, the sky is full of dozens of hawks, swooping down for bits of bread thrown by visitors. I had never seen anything like it—it was an amazing sight. That’s Roy in the orange shirt, joyfully throwing bread.

Hungry hawks

13. Japanese inn
This is the minshuku, or Japanese inn, where we stayed for two nights. It was a friendly place with shared meals and bath, run by two smiling women in their 80s. It was also right near the sea.

Hagi inn

14. Sea of Japan
What is it about children and the beach? If it had been up to Lulu and Roy, they wouldn’t have done anything but play in the sand the whole time we were there.

Beach in Hagi

15. Zen temple
This massive wooden building is found just inside the gate to the grounds of a Zen temple. It was a quiet morning, just after a hard rain the night before.

Temple in Hagi

16. Kicking rocks
Surrounded by gorgeous old pine trees and centuries of rich history, the only thing my kids wanted to do was kick rocks.

Kicking rocks

17. Aging cemetery
At the back of the temple grounds is an aging cemetery for the feudal lords of the ruling clan of that era.

Hagi cemetery

18. Family tombs
The tombs, which rise up at the rear of the cemetery, hold the remains of the lords and their family members.

Family tombs

19. Stone lanterns
After the practice of samurai committing ritual suicide when their masters died was outlawed, they began donating stone lanterns instead.

Stone lanterns

20. 500 lanterns
There are about 500 of these stone lanterns, standing at attention, silently guarding the grounds.

500 stone lanterns

21. Unseen lantern
Outside the frame, to the right, is one more stone lantern, the ball-shaped ornament from on top now lying on the ground beside it. In fact, earlier that morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I lost a silver filling. The gaping hole it left is a sign of the same decay.

Unseen lantern

22. Moss-covered stone
Nature is slowly retaking the cemetery, a symbol of how fleeting life—even death—really is…and a sharp reminder to seize each day.

Moss-covered stone

I hope you enjoyed this personal peek into our trip to Hagi. If so, please let me know in a comment, and I’ll make an effort to share more family photos from time to time, among my usual posts offering ideas and inspiration for raising bilingual children.

In the meantime, make the most of your day! Your kids are counting on you!

P.S. If you haven’t already seen them, you might also enjoy this Quick Look at My Family and 19 Things I Haven’t Told You About Me and My Family.

1 Martin May 7, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Looks like you had a nice time! Until 6 years ago, I lived about 2 hours away and enjoyed going there. The cemetery with the stone lanterns is very eerie!

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2 Adam May 7, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Martin, I agree, it’s an eerie place, with a heavy sort of presence. I’d like to visit again in August, when all 500 lanterns are apparently lit one special evening.

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3 Marta ABilingualBaby blog May 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

How interesting the story about stone lanterns! I wish we could visit Japan soon! It looks impressive!

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4 Adam May 7, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Marta, I hope to see you and your bilingual baby here one day! :mrgreen:

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5 Ana Lynn May 7, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Those photos are amazing! Now I want to visit Japan even more! I can’t make up my mind whether I would spend the majority of my time in the pottery store, the zen temple or waiting for those lanterns to be lit! That must be an impressive sight to behold.

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6 Adam May 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Thanks, Ana Lynn! It was hard leaving Hagi, and I’m already scheming how we might return again soon! (See you at the lantern-lighting?)

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7 Paul May 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm

Hi Adam

About a month ago my 11 year old son and I hiked from Yamaguchi city to Hagi over the mountains along the old road that feudal lords used to take when making their journeys between Hagi Castle and the capital Edo. It was a long, hard walk, but we lucked out with a beautiful day and it turned out to be a great bonding experience. He will start taking history this year in 6th grade so I “made” him read all the historical signs about local lords and legends. We climbed two more mountains in Hagi the following day and cycled all over the place before heading home on the bus. It was a trip I’d been dreaming about for years and I can’t wait to do it again, bringing along my daughter too next time.

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8 Adam May 8, 2014 at 6:28 am

Paul, this sounds like a terrific (and tough!) experience, and I’m eager to hear more about it at some point. Good for you and your son!

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9 Louise May 8, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Thanks for sharing these photos, Adam. Hagi is a place I’ve never been—perhaps somewhere to combine with a visit to in-laws when we are down in that part of Japan next time.

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10 Adam May 9, 2014 at 5:48 am

Louise, I think your family would like Hagi a lot!

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11 Andrea May 19, 2014 at 12:38 am

Thanks for sharing the photos, I don’t think we will be able to make it to Japan anytime soon so I appreciated the virtual tour.
I hope fixing your tooth is not too painful 😉

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12 Adam May 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

I’m glad you enjoyed the little tour, Andrea! (Fortunately, fixing my tooth was just a matter of cementing the filling back in place!)

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13 Erinn October 12, 2015 at 9:44 am

What a beautiful trip and lovely place to visit!

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