リゾット、お願いします!

On November 26, 2014, in Categories, English, Life in Japan, by 05. fabio
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If you read my self-introduction (you did it, right?? If you didn’t and wanna take a look -> Fabio in the sKAI), you already know that I like cooking.
“Who cares”, you may think.
Good one.

However, whenever you change country, it may be difficult to find the same ingredients you usually use (or you find used in what you eat) in your home country. This is, of course, a good chance to try something new, especially if we are talking about 日本料理, which is full of delicious dishes.
One of my favourites? カツ丼(katsudon).
You may have already eaten it (hopefully!), but for those who didn’t, here a quick explanation.
This japanese dish consists of a bowl of rice topped with a fried breaded sliced pork steak and eggs, both previously cooked in a salty flavoured broth.

It’s sooo delicious you will just get addicted in no time.
In some restaurants it’s also common to find a set meal which consists of: カツ丼, sliced キャベツ (cabbage) and miso soup. The price for all this is around 500-600yen (if we are talking of a standard size portion) which is pretty cheap for such a good taste and a full belly.

However,
rainy days are coming (winter is coming) and the other day I just woke up thinking about what I wanted to eat for lunch (immediately after having thought about breakfast, of course) and what a coincidence! It’s also today’s topic: risotto (リゾット).
This italian dish has many variations. The most famous one is probably the “risotto alla milanese” (リゾットアッラミラネーゼ), also known as “risotto allo zafferano” (サフランリゾット).
The legend (or better, one of the legends) begins with a Flemish glass painter, Valerio Perfundavalle, who came to Milan to work in the Milan Cathedral. This fellow used saffron to make his yellow colour brighter, and one day, while he was painting one of the Cathedral windows, he poured some of that saffron in his bowl of rice by mistake.
And no way you’re gonna throw away your lunch just because some saffron accidentally felt in it!
What we know for sure is that the taste wasn’t bad at all and with some more cooking tricks it became popular enough to establish itself as a traditional northern Italian dish.

The thing I like the most about risotto is that you may re-invent it in many ways.
The main/common process in preparing a risotto is that you have to sauté the rice first (usually with butter or EVO oil and, differently from the Japanese way, without washing it first) and pour some broth little by little, over low heat.
Getting back to that morning, here what I used to make my own version.
Let’s cook!

Ingredients (for 3 people, or 3 meals):

½ onion
½ carrot
1 green pepper
EVO oil
A cup of rice
1 Chahan powder bag or 1 bouillon cube

- First of all, let’s prepare the broth.
The best and healthiest way to make a broth is to boil vegetables (and usually chicken meat) together for like one hour.A possible shortcut is to use flavour-enhancer like bouillon cubes. I didn’t have those, so I just made an experiment and used that powder (easy to find and not that expensive) which is supposed to be used to prepare チャーハン.

The result is pretty much the same (one of those bag is less salty than a bouillon cube, so you can also add some common salt, if you want).
Just pour one bag in the water and make it boil.

- Wash and chop vegetables. (1)Pour some EVO oil in a pot and heat it for few minutes (how much oil? It depends on your taste and on the amount of vegetables we are about to sauté: in this case, if you are using a big pot as the one I used there’s no need to cover the whole bottom).
I prefer not to use a high-heating way to cook things, so I just go for a medium flame. But make sure the oil is hot enough before pouring your vegetables(2).
Make them sauté for some minutes till the onion gets a light roasted colour(3).

- Now it’s time to pour the cup of rice in the pot! Do it, stir all the ingredients with a spoon and sauté for few minutes till the rice gets a transparent yellow colour(4); then pour half of your broth in the pot(5), lower the heating/flame (a low-medium flame is puuuurfect) and stir again; let the rice cook and make sure to stir once in a while(6). When the broth is almost entirely absorbed, repeat the procedure from (5) with the other half of the broth.

Now a crucial point: when the broth is almost completely absorbed again, taste the almost-done risotto. If the rice is not ready yet, or you would like it more cooked then that, just pour some hot water (not too much, always half little pot amount per time) and repeat the procedure once more till the rice gets the consistency you like. Just remember to add salt to taste once ready.
And now it’s done(7)!

[Tip: just in the unlikely case that you have some cheese, like parmesan cheese, pour it into your risotto while it’s still hot and stir, stir and stir again…aweeeesome.]

いただきまーす!

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Momiji @ Mount Takao, Tengu and backache

On November 25, 2014, in English, Travel, by 04. chiarac
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So the day before yesterday I went to Mount Takao in order to do some sightseeing. I just meant to pretend to be the athletic-type for a while but after 20 minutes of climbing I was already being surpassed by old couples, mothers carrying babies on their back, men with strollers and so on. D: But, it was surely worth the strain, and that’s why I’m going to make a guide-like post since this period of the year is the most recommended to go and it can be helpful for those of you who want to see momiji (red/orange maple tree’s leaves) without going too far from Tokyo :3
I’ll try to be as accurate as possible and put lots of pics so it will be a long post, please bear with it! :P

高尾山 (たかおさん Takaosan) is a mount situated in the city of Hachijouji, at just one hour by train from Shinjuku.
This Mount is part of a protected park and is sacred to japanese (a sacred mount?? in Japan?? so rare!) for being related to Tengu 天狗, a creature of japanese folklore with both characteristics of a human and a crow-like bird, which is said to live on mountains and forests.
Being it inside Tokyo prefecture, the cost of the train ticket to reach Takaosan is surprisingly just 390 yen one way! With Keio Line the train (almost 1 hour with semi-express) goes directly from Shinjuku (we took it from Higashiguchi, the one in front of Studio Alta) to destination: Takaosanguchi 高尾山口.


I do not own this image. Please watch the original animated version on Keio website.

All the websites I checked told that Takaosan is most crowded during weekends and especially during the 3 weeks from the end of november till the start of december since the mount is one of the most cherished destination in order to admire momiji, so it would have been better to go during week days. Guess who went on a sunny Sunday in full momiji period?? YES, you guessed right. It was crowded, indeed. Oh and as you can see there are different paths, but the most chosen one is path 1; at first I wanted to go with the I-won’t-conform-to-the-crowd attitude, but in the end I had to settle with the fact that it is actually the one with most attractions, moreover the path is paved. We decided to take path 1 for climbing, with a little deviation on path 4 to see the hanging bridge (it’s not indicated on this map) and then descend using path 6 to see the Biwa falls.
Once arrived at Takaosanguchi take the road on your right once out of the station. After some minutes of walk you’ll arrive to the square where the cable car and chair lift station is, the price for any of them is 430 yen one way, in 5-10 minutes they bring you to halfway the path, Keio Line provides discounted ticket for people who take the train’s round trip ticket + ticket (one way or round trip) for either the cable car or the lift. We decided to be brave (or stupid??) and climbed along the whole path 1.

path 1 start path 1 lift & cable car station

After a while (a long one :D), at about halfway through, you’ll get to the arrival station of the cable car and chair lift, there you’ll also find drink vending machines (around 180 yen per 500ml, but if you just need water I suggest you to wait because at another 5-10 minutes from there is another rest place with a fountain where you can fill up your empty bottle for free :DD *queen of saving jingle*) as well as some yatai selling dango, ice cream and such…there are also some plastic tables for people to rest and eat (we did bring some onigiri with us) and you can enjoy a beautiful panorama.

arrival station panorama fountain

At this time you’ll reach the turning point and approach the Monkey Park and Wild Plant Garden, you can enjoy the view of cute little (?) monkeys taking out fleas one another at a modest 400 yen price. If you’re like me: poor and with monkeys as house mates, and consequently you’re not interested, don’t worry because you can go on without entering the Park, or you can also do a tour around it by deviating on path 2 (I wanted to follow path 2 for a while and then rejoin path 1 but I actually didn’t find it :O). Not too far, another “attraction” is tako-sugi, a cedar’s root with the shape of an octopus, but it didn’t really look like an octopus to me so I didn’t figure out what it was, instead everyone was happily brushing the head of an octopus statue near there, I didn’t really figure out why but since everytime you have to touch/brush/rub/stroke things it is usually because it brings luck be sure to go for a little stroke if you pass nearby. :D

Next we arrived to the temple, preceded by the Joshin Gate, but before going on we did a little deviation on path 4 (on your right just before the gate) to reach the hanging bridge, after another 10 minute-walk. Path 4 is narrow and not paved, there’s a huge ravine on your right, roots come out from the ground and people walk in both directions so..pay attention xD Walking on the bridge was scary, all the people crossing it made it shake like a little earthquake, but it was also funny someway xD Of course I’m not recommending it if you’re afraid of heights and don’t like “risky” situations in general. :O

Joshin Gate hanging bridge hanging bridge

After that we did path 4 backwards and came back to the Joshin Gate. Going on you can either continue climbing (on your right) or do the 百八階段 (on the left), a ladder with 108 steps to purify your heart and such. We, masochists, took the ladder and after that you can chose again, and we chose again the ladder. Either way, you’ll arrive to a square with the Buddhist relics stupa as well as other monuments and statues, such as the one of the deity Izuna Daigongen with two Tengu. Going back to the path, you’ll find another rest area with yatai where I bought some tasty kurogoma dango.

108 step ladder more steps :D stupa and statues sesame dango

Finally we reached the temple, 高尾山薬王院有喜寺 Takaosan Yakuoin Yukiji, known as the Temple of Tengu. Since my graduation thesis was about yōkai but nobody read it, not even my parents (sigh), I’ll gladly write few lines about those creatures. They’re connected to shugendō, a doctrine followed by yamabushi: they were ascetic that abandoned their community in order to seek illumination by wandering on mountains, the place where deities are believed to live.
Being in contact with the otherness for so much time they were not fully considered as human beings anymore; moreover, their secret doctrine led also to suspects and insinuations. So it’s no surprise that Tengu are often represented wearing yamabushi vests or they can transform into yamabushi in order to deceive a human being. They also like to transform into Buddhist monks and that’s why they’re sometimes represented while carrying the ringed staff monks usually own.
Tengu were seen at first as evil beings, but with the influence of Buddhism and probably also the physical resemblance with the deity Garuda they are today seen as protectors of the temples and messengers of the deity. This “enlightened version” is represented with a human appearance, but with red skin and a way too long nose!
The temple owes much to the Buddhist priest Shungen Daitoku, considered like a second founder and deeply connected with shugendō, who came to the temple and performed a ritual in which the deity Izuna Daigongen (which combines elements of many deities such as Garuda) is said to have appeared to him; the deity, enshrined in the temple, protects devoted people from harm. The temple is amazing, so full of art, decorations and colours (here I found the reddest momiji so far)!

  
  

And there are many “curious” rituals, so funny that after a while I had the impression to be in a fun fair, some examples:

– a fortune wheel

– ring-a-ring

– ring a bell

– wash your money into water then try to figure out how to wipe them before they become unusable

– get rid of small change

..and so much more! Of course I’m joking, most of these rituals involve fortune or gratitude to the temple and the deity :)

So…here we are! Finally! The SUMMIT! After another 2-3 sets of ladders and the last climb we reached our destination! I have to state something: the pamphlet-guide said that it took something like 1:30 hours to climb to the top, including some little pause. Well, we did it in 5 hours. I don’t know how it is possible..I mean, ok, we are italians…we take things slowly ò.ò We ate and rest and ate and took pictures and rest and bought sweets and took more pictures..but I swear that there’s no way a normal person could do it in 1:30 hours unless, maybe, if they’re well-trained and won’t stop no matter what! I think the average to reach the top is 2:30/3 hours??? Anyway we arrived at sunset, and it was great :)))


It was getting dark but we decided to climb down using the unpaved path 6. In order to reach it we had to take the Inariyama trail for a while, but we found that path 6 was closed so we went all along Inariyama trail. Well, we did a big mistake because soon it got so dark that we couldn’t see anything xD I mean, there were people totally at ease with climbing down practically blindly, but we, people of the city (???), had some difficulties since roots and stones were everywhere, the ground was slippery and there were some rather high steps..luckily I had with me a flashlight and with that and smartphones’ light we did it someway. xD But, it was also fun! (<- my kneecaps are saying "NO."). Oh, we did it in 1 hour by the way, hurrying like mad (*time gaps*).

108 step ladder 108 step ladder

The end of the path will lead you back to the square with the chair lift and cable car station, from there in less than 10 minutes you’ll reach Takaosanguchi to get the train back, along a road full of omiyage shops and restaurants. :) Oh, try agepan from one of the shops in the square, it was sooo good!! And…that’s all! Hope you’ll get to go to this beautiful place because it’s sooo worth it! :3

 

Hi there everyone!

My name is Fabio, I come from Italy and I got here in Japan in October.
I was born (it’s not a long story, I swear!) in Milan, the same city where I also attended university and started studying Japanese. Truth be told, I enjoyed that course a lot, since I got to know many people that I now call friends and it made me get more and more addicted to this language. But unfortunately I had few chances to practise speaking Japanese…and that’s more or less the reason why I’m here. Yes. In order to formulate something more articulated than「私の名前はポタトファビオです。」.
I planned to join KAI Japanese School for six months (maybe I’ll stay longer if I get a baito), so in this span of months let’s get to know each other and have fun :)
I’m from the 4A (on the first floor/japanese second floor), my lessons are in the afternoon but you may find me on the (japanese)third floor also during the morning, studying. I’m like “that guy who comes at school between 9-10 a.m. even if his class is from 13:20 p.m. just to study”. Yeah…I usually get some [ohmygosh, get a life!]-look too, but hey: since I have spare time and this is not a city you can just visit using transport without hurting your pocket badly (ifyaknowwhatImean), and I can barely study at home, why not? Moreover, you have more chances to catch up with me more often! How lucky you a~re :D

My hobbies you say? Uhm…I really love cooking (“how exquisitely original” you may think: “an Italian who loves cooking…”, but that’s just a cliché!).
Basically, I think I love cooking ‘cause I really enjoy eating.
Seriously, I do.
You know, I’m not that type of potato(?) human who eats just to survive; I eat ‘cause I love eating. I love food. And Tokyo is sooo full of food shops/restaurants/sweet shops/restaurants and then food shops againGOSH. Stop it.
Have you ever tried Mr. Donuts by the way? No? Then don’t.
It’s a trap.
It's a Trap.
You will start eating just one, innocent, 柔らかい donut, as reward for your efforts and then, before you even notice, you will have tried all the type of donuts they sell. And I mean ALL.
「お客様、どうぞ!こちらで召し上が・・・」 NO! I don’t wanna eat here, I wanna LIVE here!!
Joking aside, try it: you won’t regret it.

And, as I was saying, I like also video games and anime. And that’s why 秋葉原is one of my favourite districts in Tokyo. But no, this is not linked to my personal interest in Japanese. I like Japanese ‘cause I do love how it sounds and I would like to find a job where I have to use it.
Speaking of which, I love foreign languages. Unfortunately I realized it a bit late…but never say never! I would like to learn Korean, French, Spanish, Chinese and improve my English (and if I’m not dead already, some German would be nice; felt in love with Southern Germany one year ago, and now I wanna try also Nothern Germany!).
What else…I love travelling! Of course! So many places I want to see again and so many new ones I want to visit!

So, if you have tips or you just want to have a lil’ chit-chat with me, you know where to find me :D
よろしくお願いしま~す。

じゃ, see ya all at school!

 

KAI Gambalog!

On November 19, 2014, in Française, School Life, Self-introduction, by 01. ScillaChan
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Hello tous!

J’avais envie de partager avec vous mon expérience parmi les Gambalogers. Cela fait un peu plus de 2 ans maintenant que je suis dans ce projet de l’école. Oui, je suis l’aînée du groupe… J’aurai pu m’arrêter il y a un moment, mais j’avoue qu’écrire m’amuse beaucoup, malgré ma nullité en orthographe (merci les correcteurs! XD  ) et en grammaire française. J’aime partager mes expériences avec vous. Alors laissez-moi vous parler un peu de Gambalog.

Gambalog est le blog de l’école Kai Japanese Language School. Il est tenu par les étudiants de l’école, bien que la technique soit superviser par nos professeurs. On écrit chacun dans nos langues d’origine et si l’on y arrive parfois, on essaie d’écrire en japonais. Dans mon cas, j’avoue, je ne le fais pas souvent. ^^’ C’est surtout parce que cela nous demande beaucoup de temps et avec les cours ou le travail en plus, c’est pas toujours évident.
Personnellement, je suis en cours privée et j’ai un peu plus de temps que les mes collègues ou plutôt je n’ai pas le stress des examens trimestriels donc je peux écrire plus régulièrement.

Quand j’ai commencé, ce n’était pas le cas. En effet, j’ai commencé en mai 2012. A cette époque, j’étais en cours général level 1. J’ai dû très vite apprendre à jongler avec mes révisions et mes articles. Au début, ce n’était pas facile. Il n’était pas rare que j’arrive à l’approche des examens en étant non seulement stresser par mes révisions, mais aussi par l’approche de la deadline pour l’écriture des articles. Chaque Gambaloger doit, ou plutôt devrait écrire 6 articles par trimestre. C’est un deal avec l’école. C’est un peu comme un petit job. On écrit et on reçoit une petite compensation monétaire. Certes, on va pas gagner de quoi payer un loyer en fin de mois, mais c’est toujours un petit plus et ça dépanne bien. On nous demande évidemment que nos études de japonais soit une priorité par rapport au Gambalog. Logique. Si on pait une école, c’est par juste pour écrire dans un blog. lol Bref, pour ma part, j’ai mis 3 trimestres avant de trouver un rythme. J’ai vu bon nombre de gambalogers ne par y arriver et finalement quitter le projet. C’est un peu triste, mais cela dépends des objectifs de chacun.

En ce moment, nous sommes une très petite équipe de 5 gambalogers. Cette automne, vous aller surement pouvoir lire des articles en italiens car tous les gambalogers sont italiens! Enfin sauf moi, qui suis suisse (bien qu’avec des origines italiennes… lol ). Donc si par hasard vous êtes un étudiant de KAI qui aurait envie de tenter l’aventure, n’hésitez pas à contacter le staff de l’école car on recrute en permanence. Et je dois avouer que d’avoir un autre francophone pour écrire et avoir une autre vision que moi du Japon, serait bienvenue. Je vous donnerais mon astuce pour ne pas vous laisser déborder entre études et blogging. ;) Hormis cela, si vous souhaitez que j’écrive sur un sujet plus précis, n’hésitez pas à me le demander dans les commentaires ou dans le groupe Facebook de l’école KAI zaikosei (Réservé aux étudiants de KAI! ). D’ailleurs, c’est un groupe bien pratique pour demander, s’informer ou simplement communiquer avec les autres étudiants et les professeurs.

Pour conclure, j’espère que je vous aurais un peu envie de participer à Gambalog, que ce soit en nous rejoignant dans la team ou en le lisant. Dans tous les cas, j’ai vraiment beaucoup de plaisir à partager avec vous, lecteurs. Et je compte bien continuer tant que je serais inscrite à KAI.

Vu d’Odaiba, Rainbow bridge et Minato-ku, septembre 2014

 

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Hello everyone! My name is Chiara and I came from Italy in order to study Japanese here at KAI and find a wonderful job and become rich and then open my own pastapizzawhatsoever restaurant and be even richer…but that’s everyone’s story! Truthfully, when I think about future, it always reminds me of one of my girl classmates back in elementary school; she used to say “I’ll definitely be a lawyer” and as far as I know, she actually became one. That’s not my story. I’m 2–*cough cough* years old and my passion (for ornithology japanese, of course :O) starts from when I was 14. The starting points were, as most of people, manga and anime. Then I added japanese music to the list and in the meanwhile I tried to get as many info as I could about traditions, history, nowadays life and so on.
Not that just liking manga and anime and also japanese culture is a fair reason enough to study this language, at least as far as I can see. After feeling good for a while because you can read the kanji for “moon” or know that “neko” means “cat” or can intonate “kawaiiiiii” better than a japanese middle schooler with a pink fluffy rabbit plushie hanging from her mobile phone, sooner or later you end up consuming all of your basic knowledge and find yourself in the same herd with the others, struggling to stay on the surface. In my opinion, in order to go on you ought to have an AB-normal passion for the thing itself and, why not, a bit of masochism can help. :D If everytime you don’t sleep in order to learn new kanji (or are assigned with too many homeworks) you feel a little thrill shaking your body, than you’re probably fit for learning this language. :P
Anyway, back when I was 18 I started working but after some years I decided, after many thoughts and with much suffering, to quit my job and with the money I saved with work I moved to Milan in order to study at university. I graduated after 3 years, worked for another year (yes, I’m old) and now I came to Tokyo (for the second time, first time was 2 years ago) and enrolled to KAI school starting from level 5-M2. Aaaand that’s pretty much my story, I guess.

E adesso mi italianizzo un attimo giusto per rispettare i tag del post. L’altro giorno (il 2 novembre, non proprio ieri ecco) sono andata al Meiji Jingu 明治神宮 che, situato all’interno del parco di Yoyogi 代々木公園, è uno dei santuari shintoisti più importanti di Tokyo, dedicato all’Imperatore Meiji e alla sua consorte. Per come arrivare e gli orari vi rimando al sito ufficiale. (Se invece volete fare una passeggiata partendo dalla KAI ci vogliono circa 40-50 minuti e passate dentro a Shinjuku e Harajuku, la strada è tutta dritta e ci sono parecchi cafè e negozietti interessanti.) Proprio a cavallo tra il 1° e il 3 novembre avvengono le celebrazioni più importanti del santuario:

- 1° novembre -> 鎮座記念祭 (ちんざきねんさい – chinza kinensai) Anniversario della Fondazione del Santuario (Enshrinment Anniversary Ceremony);

- 2 novembre -> 秋の大祭 (あきのたいさい – ki no taisai)- Grande Festival dell’autunno (Autumn Grand Festival);

- 3 novembre -> 例祭 (れいさい – reisai) – Cerimonia Annuale (162° anniversario della nascita dell’Imperatore Meiji) – Annual Ceremony (162nd anniversary of Emperor Meiji’s birthday);

e proprio il 2 novembre sono andata per caso in visita trovandomi immersa in diverse celebrazioni:

- 三曲 (さんきょく – sankyoku) Musica in onore delle divinità, in questo caso si trattava di donne (principalmente) e uomini che suonavano il koto;

- Mostra dei crisantemi;

- Matrimoni tradizionali vari ed eventuali;

- Offerte al tempio in onore della sua fondazione;

- Bambini in kimono da cerimonia (in realtà non ho ben capito il perché visto che la loro festa principale, chiamata 七五三 (しちごさん – shichigosan) ovvero “sette cinque tre”, in cui si festeggiano appunto i bambini di queste età, cade il 15 di novembre..magari vista la vicinanza ne hanno approfittato per far indossare il kimono ai bambini 2 volte? Boh! Fatto sta che erano bellerrimi :3);

….insomma è stata una graditissima sorpresa! C’erano anche delle bancarelle di cibarie e ho preso degli yakisoba che non ho avuto il tempo di fotografare perché avevo troppa fame :P

Durante le celebrazioni mi è capitato in mano un volantino in cui ho saputo che il giorno dopo si celebrava l’anniversario della nascita dell’Imperatore Meiji con tutta una serie di eventi interessanti, per cui sono tornata a dare un’occhiata!!! :3 La cosa che mi è piaciuta di più è stata sicuramente una performance di teatro popolare e comico con musicisti e attori che impersonavano persone normali, animali e divinità, purtroppo non ricordo il nome di questo tipo di performance e non trovo il volantino, ma metterò un video per far capire di cosa si trattava.
Vedendo questa performance mi sono ritrovata a pensare che tantissimo tempo prima i giapponesi venivano intrattenuti dalle stesse storie, danze e recite, e il tutto è stato molto mistico diciamo (apparte le vecchiette lì intorno che ridevano tantissimo per cose che io, povera gaiginna, non potevo capire). Addirittura alcune maschere muovevano la bocca sbattendo i denti e rendendo il tutto molto realistico! Appena ritroverò il nome esatto di questa tipologia di spettacoli mi piacerebbe approfondire di più i tipi di storie, l’identità dei personaggi eccetera :)

Per ultimo la cerimonia più importante, ovvero lo 流鏑馬 (やぶさめ – yabusame), trattasi di arcieri a cavallo, quindi la difficoltà ovviamente sta nel centrare il bersaglio mentre stai correndo su un cavallo che ti sballotta di qua e di là, è stato molto interessante ma purtroppo la quantità di persone presenti mi ha impedito di fare foto decenti quindi ne metto una di default trovata sempre sul sito del Meiji Jingu.

Questo è tutto, per essere il primo post ho già scritto tantissimo, comunque quando andate a vedere il tempio approfittatene anche per fare un giro più lungo dentro il parco di Yoyogi, ne vale veramente la pena per uscire un po’ dal caos cittadino e godersi il pathos (?) con la natura!!