Photos by Yashira M. Rodriguez Sierra
Photos by Yashira M. Rodriguez Sierra

You don’t have to travel far from Sasebo to enjoy Japan’s culture, sights

by Yashira M. Rodriguez Sierra
Stripes Okinawa

Japan is so beautiful, and the best thing is that there are many places to visit! I have only been here three months and look forward to visiting many more of the country’s amazing locations.

Planting rice by hand


Planting rice

In the short amount of time I have been here I’ve already found a couple of gems between a few minutes to a an hour’s drive from the Sasebo Naval Base-area I’m sure you will also enjoy. Check them out:

Today, many farmers use machines to plant and harvest rice, but in Funabasho I learned of the arduous process of planting rice by hand. There is no doubt about the great work that comes with it and the patience involved in carrying out this trade which supports many Japanese families. With the help of a rope, the rice is marked and planted in straight lines. Before you go, wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting dirty in because this job involves lots of mud!  The experience is worth it, as rice is an important staple in the Japanese diet.

 

Takeo City Library


Takeo City Library

If you enjoy reading books as much as I do, I bet you’ll enjoy Takeo City Library and its two floors chock full of magazines and amazing books. The library is in Saga Pref. and also offers various services including a study room, wheelchairs for disabled guests, and a nursing room including a special water heater for milk preparation and a special restroom for children. The library even has volunteers for the blind, Braille translation assistance, and face-to-face reading services. Their children’s area is interesting, and I loved visiting. Takeo City Library also has a terrace to sit and enjoy a book al fresco, which I took full advantage of. 
- GPS: 33.189324, 130.023668

 

Takeo Okuso: Ancient and sacred camphor tree of Takeo Shrine

After the library, head to Takeo Okuso, an amazing, giant tree, surround by a lot of bamboo. This sacred camphor tree is considered a protector god and is on the grounds of Takeo Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Saga City. The great tree is the seventh largest tree in the country, is over 3,000 years old and stands over 27 meters high.

How to get there:
Takeo’s Okuso
20 minute walk from Takeo Onsen Sta. 1.6kim. It’s near the Takeo Library.
From JR Takeo Station (JR Sasebo Line) 5 minutes by taxi.
- GPS: 33.188152, 130.020894

 

Blueberry garden


Blueberry garden

One of the loveliest and more popular activities to do in Japan is blueberry picking. This was a fun and delicious experience as we were allowed to pick and eat the tastiest blueberries of different varieties. We enjoyed picking blueberries in the calm and beautiful surroundings of the farm. This is also a great activity for children. Look out for signs advertising picking in during the season from late June to Early Sept.

 

Yame Traditional Craft Museum - a treasure of Japan

This museum is a great one for experiencing many of the country’s elaborate arts and crafts.

View exhibits on woodwork, pottery, child toys, bamboo products, fishing poles, and tools hammered out by hand like knives. They even have incense sticks made from powdered cedar, which involves an interesting process to make the natural fragrance without additives.

Yame Traditional Craft Museum also showcases the craftsmen allowing visitors to see first-hand the hours of labor, passion and love craftsmen put into their work. We watched artisans making washi paper, a tradition I’m glad they’ve been able to keep alive. The process for washi paper is very long. First, Kozo, a Japanese plant, is soaked in water with chemicals and boiled. Next its washed again, bleached, rinsed and pounded into a pulp. The pulp fibers are mixed and squeezed into a screened frame and molded to tangle the fibers. After the pulp is pressed, it sits to dry in sheets of paper you see around crafts stores and gift shops. The paper is used on a variety of products from woodblocks, to blotting paper, lamps and wrapping paper.

I saw a calligrapherv, whom even gifted me a sheet with calligraphy! The employees and volunteers are very friendly at this museum.

Outside the building, check out their stone garden, where craftsmen cut, carve and lay out stone lanterns in an eye-catching exhibit. The stone used comes from the Nagano region and is volcanic material called ASO tuff.

Another plus, the Traditional Crafts of Yame Museum lets visitors try many of the projects out for themselves. We made our own fan out of washi paper with a decoration of dried pressed wild flowers with the assistance of the papermakers. This gave us a deeper appreciation of this traditional art.

I even took home a few things for myself at the museum. I purchased a small wallet made of woven threads painted with natural indigo. To create this blue ink, indigo plants are fermented, and the pigment is extracted. The fabric is dyed through a process of dying, wringing and beating repeatedly. After, the threads dry outside and then are prepared for warp winding, weaving and rolling.
- GPS: 33.206958, 130.557130

 

Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium

Spend some time with kawaii warm-climate penguins at the Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium. It was an extraordinary and educative experience. This aquarium is home to six out of the 18 species of penguins in the world. You can see the penguin swimming underwater, getting fed (you can also feed the penguins), and walking around. Children can draw penguins and watch their art projected onto a large animation screen. The aquarium also includes other types of fish like starfish, hermit crabs and other sea creatures. 
- GPS: 32.758317, 129.946667

 

Yame Traditional Craft Museum

YNSN Yashira M. Rodriguez Sierra is originally from Caguas, Puerto Rico. She joined the Navy nine months ago and arrived at her duty station at Sasebo Naval Base in May of this year. Rodriguez Sierra enjoys nature and moving to Japan is a dream come true. She volunteers at a local orphanage and before joining the Navy she was an artisan and journalist.

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