I was recently asked to explain where I’d visited in Japan using Game of Thrones as a rough geographical guide. I replied that if Tokyo were King’s Landing, then where Colin and Kim now live is the blazing south of Dorne, and my former home of Akita would be the frozen plains of Winterfell. Never was this more apparent than when we paid a visit to the Fukiagehama Sand Art Festival: rather in contrast to the snow festival I’d seen whilst living in the north.

Moai.

One for Kim’s dad – a motorbike enthusiast.

I can’t imagine sand being a particularly cooperative medium to work with, so these really were ridiculously impressive.

Case in point: we arrived on the second day of the festival and some of the sculptures weren’t holding up too well.

One of my favourites.

Have you ever noticed those trees sort of look like they’re giving you the finger?

Creepy, starry-eyed baby.

There was also a crafts fair happening nearby.

The festival was, however, a little smaller than we’d anticipated, so – after a picnic lunch under the trees – we headed off to Hirakawa Zoological Park.

…where one of my life-long dreams was finally to be realised.

!!!

Knowing that red pandas are my favourite animals in the world, Colin and Kim adopted one for me last summer at the Highland Wildlife Park. We were then invited to spend an evening with the animals after the park closed, whereupon we drove four hours up into the Scottish Highlands, only to discover that the red pandas had given birth the night before and were completely closed to the public. (Full, disastrous story here.)

They therefore made a specific point of taking me to the zoo in Kagoshima, where I was finally able to meet one face-to-face!

They were everything I dreamed and more.

I wanna sea your peacock, cock, cock, your peacock.

Hamadryas baboon and Barbary Sheep.

Khaleesi, Mother of Red Pandas.

“sekushi” (an import into the Japanese language meaning ‘sexy’) and “primary school” – two words that should never be used in combination.

知林ヶ島 (Chiringashima) – the largest island in Kagoshima Bay, accessible via an 800m sandbar at low tide

Borrowing Kim’s husband for quite possibly my favourite photo of the trip.

The sandbar is occasionally washed away after a typhoon and disappears for a while, but it is eventually restored as sand is deposited by the tides.

What I want from you is…your voice.

Sea urchins? Surprisingly sprightly!

This island is known as a matchmaking spot for couples because the sandbar is reminiscent of a bridge or bond. Who were we to disappoint?

Mark X – my porn doppelgänger.

I’m generally not a fan of fast food, but I will always make an exception for Mos Burger. Oh, how I’ve missed you.

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Comments
  1. Markus McD says:

    I will never boast my sandcastle making skills again – those were epic!
    And Red Pandas! So cute! ❤

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