Joined March 2017 Message
  • Day23

    Final week in Japan

    April 15, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    So we left off last time leaving Osaka, we travelled on to Takayama which took a long time! Friday 14th marked the start of the Takayama spring festival.
    We were up in the mountainous Hida area where it gets very cold at night. We stayed in a Japanese lady's house (airbnb) because all the hotels get booked up fast for this festival. We were a little nervous about this but she was a lovely host, she made us breakfast (it was easier to eat than the super traditional nyuto onsen breakfast...), provided information leaflets, gave us tea and sake and even gave us little gifts before we left!

    We were lucky that Friday was a sunny day and despite being around 0 degrees when we woke up it went up to 18 degrees by 1pm (according to accuweather). We saw the pretty floats around town and watched the marionette show, then went to see nearby Hida folk village which has a few different old fashioned styles of housing from the Hida region. In the evening they parade the floats around takayama, all the while playing flutes and banging drums and dancing. One float paused a while and gave everyone nearby cups of sake (including us foreigners). We really enjoyed seeing the evening festival. There is a small video of it on Toms Facebook (when he went 'live').

    Saturday the festival continues but mostly similar to Friday without the night parade, instead of sticking around to see it again we went to Tokyo because it is a very long journey. Our final stop!

    In Tokyo our time was a bit less planned out, only a few things pre planned. Sunday we went to the Ghibli museum (movie studio behind spirited away) which was a very quirky building and interesting to visit, and then visited nakano Broadway and akihabara (famous anime goods related district). Tom enjoyed eating at the gundam cafe in particular and recognising a few sights from video games.

    Monday we went to odaiba, which a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. It has some landmarks in the area such as the rainbow bridge and fuji TV building. We rode the ferris wheel (it was the world's largest when it was built, it lost its status to the London Eye), explored the shops, played in the arcade, went on a trip to the Tokyo Bay pokemon centre (not so close to odaiba...) sang in a karaoke booth and then for the night we had a cruise of Tokyo Bay at night which we really enjoyed.

    Tuesday we went to Tokyo sky tree, the second tallest structure in the world and highest tower. It's amazing how quickly the lift takes you so high. The view of Tokyo was impressive, and we could just about make out Mt fuji in the distance but it was a little cloudy so not very clear. Then we visited our last pokemon centres, bringing our total up to 7! Finally we headed to harajuku and did a bit of souvenir shopping, which then led to us having to buy a 'megabag' to transport some decorative swords home (Tom tells the story well, ask him in person!)

    Wednesday was Disney day, we went to Tokyo Disneysea (they also have disneyland but we'd heard Disneysea was considered the better Park) it was a warm sunny day but quite windy, and a lower expected crowds day. This meant although there were some long queues it wasn't so bad and we managed to see what we wanted to (that was open). We enjoyed toy story midway mania (long queue though), Tower of terror, indiana Jones ride and journey to the centre of the earth. The park itself is very pleasant with the lands themed well.

    Thursday was our last day but we had to do a hotel switch and were feeling pretty knackered. We managed to visit shibuya crossing (possibly the world's busiest, we were there at what we expected was a relatively quiet time and it was still very busy) and meiji shrine which was very peaceful (shrine surrounded by trees in the middle of Tokyo but you can forget you are in a city)

    We are back home now, and are spending the weekend trying to get back in the correct timezone (back to work Monday!) Tom is uploading more pictures shortly :)
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  • Day21

    Third week in Japan

    April 13, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    This week the amount we've been doing started to catch up with us, so we slowed down a little bit (but not too much! Lots to see and do!

    We visited Hiroshima Friday - we saw the atomic dome and peace museum, which was very sad. Foggy and drizzly but humid weather created a slightly eerie atmosphere. After this to lighten the mood we visited pokemon centre Hiroshima and then shukkeien garden (shrunken scenery garden). Other than the peace museum and atomic dome there is no evidence that the city was destroyed as it is totally rebuilt and otherwise a normal bustling city.

    We stayed on miyajima, which is an island that is a 20 minute ferry from mainland Hiroshima. It is busy in the day and quiet at night, and has many deer wandering around. We enjoyed this island even though unfortunately it was very foggy! The quietness in the evenings was very pleasant compared to other places we have been. We viewed the 'floating' torii gate (another of Japan's top 3 views), visited itsukushima shrine, and went up Mt misen but it was too foggy to see anything! If anything it was a bit eerie riding the ropeway into whiteness but it was a pity to not enjoy the view from the mountain. At the top we got to make momiji manju, which is a regional food (maple leaf shaped and slightly maple flavoured cake usually with azuki bean filling - picture of them included!). The island is small and easy to move around so we managed to do all this and still have a good rest.

    Sunday we went to himeji on the way to osaka, we left a bit slowly in the morning and were too late to do all the planned activities so chose to go up Mt shosha to visit engyoji temple (where they filmed part of the last samurai). It was possible to enjoy the view (the weather was good!) and the temple grounds are very pleasant. This was just a stop on the way to osaka for the evening, where we'd spend the next 4 nights.

    On Monday we went to the osaka aquarium which was really good. Then we met up with Hayley (when we were studying Japanese at the brasshouse a few years ago she was in our class, she now lives and works in osaka teaching English) to explore osaka castle grounds which were very pretty with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, then we went to an arcade together which was fun, then we visited dotonbori which is a famous food strip in osaka. We went to cat cafe (I loved this! Tom tolerated it) and had a nice dinner together.

    Tuesday we went to universal studios. We had been warned beforehand the queues here could be really bad, but we were lucky (sortof) that it was a drizzly day so the park was relatively quiet. We had a great time and got to ride everything we wanted to. We really enjoyed the Evangelion 4k ride, the wizarding world of Harry Potter area (I was wearing my butterbeer t-shirt and the staff that noticed seemed impressed) and the Jurassic Park rides.

    Wednesday we were originally going to have a day trip to Nara, but we were starting to feel a bit bored of temples and still wanted to go a bit slower so we decided to go back to Himeji to see the castle (it's one of the prettiest castles in Japan) then we had matsusaka beef for dinner (very fancy beef to those who have never heard of it) - it was delicious!

    Thursday today, and we're moving on, so posting early!
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  • Day15

    Second week in Japan

    April 7, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We spent Friday travelling mostly, all the way from Lake Tazawa to Kanazawa (Google maps says in a car it would be a 625km journey, the train route is less direct so would cover even more distance). It took a long time so we didn't do any sightseeing.

    Saturday we met up with a friend of Tom's, Simon (from Warrington). He is currently living in Kanazawa and teaching English. We went to a place commonly known as 'Ninja Temple ' because it has secret passages and possible traps. It's real name is something else because it was never actually anything to do with ninja. Unfortunately no photos were allowed of this place. Simon had to go to work after this but we'd meet him later.

    Tom and I went to explore Kenrokuen next - one of Japan's best gardens (apparently the third best in the country) which was very pleasant, although it was a bit too early for most of the cherry trees to be in blossom. Then we looked around a samurai villa, Tom especially enjoyed this as he finds samurai very interesting! We explored the preserved teahouse district, higashi (where geishas once worked) and the preserved samurai district. We also passed through the castle grounds! After this busy day we met up with Simon for some sushi (Tom loves sushi but I don't really like fish so struggle with it, we found some non fish items on menu though!). After this we visited a shrine in the dark - the grounds don't close so it was possible to explore at night.

    The next day we headed to Kyoto. The weather had finally got a little warmer which we were pleased about. We went to the fushimi inari shrine, which is famous for having many torii gates. It's quite a sight! It also is up a hill and offers a nice view over Kyoto. We finished off the day by heading to pontocho, an atmospheric Street (not big enough for cars) full of restaurants by the river and had a very enjoyable dinner.

    We did so many things in Kyoto over the rest of the week just listing them all will probably take a while!
    I'll do my best:
    Monday we rode the sagano scenic railway to kameoka and had a boat ride down the hozu river back towards kyoto. We met up with Simon again to visit kinjakuji (golden pavilion - the building is covered with gold leaf) and ryoanji (has a famous rock garden).
    Tuesday we spent our time in arashiyama (western kyoto). First we went to the monkey Park (full of Japanese macaques), then we went to tenruji temple, explored the bamboo groves, and visited daikakuji temple. We also visited the international manga museum and the kyoto pokemon centre.
    Wednesday we spent our time in eastern kyoto. We went to ginkakuji (silver pavilion - not actually silver though unlike the golden one), walked along 'philosophers walk' (lots of cherry blossom trees! They were finally starting to bloom), visited nanzenji temple (we didn't explore much, by now our feet are hurting pretty much always with all this walking!), heian shrine, maruyama Park (we had a picnic and a rest! People sit in the park on tatami mats and relax and enjoy the cherry blossoms), yasaka shrine, gion area (traditional geisha teahouse area, some geishas apparently still work here! Also I found my first hello kitty shop), historical higashiyama district and kiyomizudera temple.
    Thursday we went to nijo castle, sanjuusangendo temple, the nishiki market, and went to a tea ceremony experience where we were taught some of the customs of tea ceremony and how to whisk matcha.

    After all this we are exhausted! But onward to Hiroshima and week 3....
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  • Day8

    First week in Japan part 2

    March 31, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Monday we travelled up to Sendai, it's north of Tokyo so it took us most of the day to travel there. We visited our first pokemon centre, our first Japanese arcade and bravely experienced the local specialty cuisine - gyutan (grilled beef tongue).

    Tuesday we were very busy, we visited Matsushima in the morning, enjoying a cruise around the bay. Matsushima is meant to have one of Japan's top 3 best views (Japan likes top 3 lists) and we agree! We explored some of the small islands and went for a traditional green tea in an old teahouse overlooking the bay - it was a very Japanese experience! It had a small museum to Masamune Date (feudal Lord of the region in 1600s who used to own the teahouse) attached. In the afternoon we travelled to Yamadera (translation of this place is literally mountain temple), we climbed 1000 steps to the very top - very hard work as we are unfit but we managed and got to enjoy the view from the top! Personally I think it could do with a zipwire back down, but it's a case of decending all 1000 steps. Much easier down than up though.

    Wednesday we travelled to Nyuto Onsen, a hot spring town further north in the mountains near lake Tazawa. We stayed in a very rustic and traditional room with an irori (fire pit in room) to have dinner cooked on. We enjoyed wearing our yukata and bathing in the hot spring and having a traditional Japanese experience, although Hannah was plagued by headaches and we struggled with the food. We are pleased we got to experience this part of Japan and managed to get some needed relaxing time. We stayed here 2 nights.

    It is now Friday for us so we arrived a week ago! What a busy week it has been. We are looking forward to our next adventures :)
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  • Day3

    First week in Japan part 1

    March 26, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 1 °C

    Since the last post we enjoyed visiting the square Enix cafe (creators of final fantasy and Kingdom hearts games for those who don't know) where we had Final Fantasy themed cocktails and desserts. We then were so sleepy from not sleeping on the plane we had to go to bed.

    The next day we went to Hakone, the plan here was to use the ropeway to go up to Owakudani - an area on a volcano where the sulphurous gases can be seen and they are famous for cooking eggs in the hot volcano heated streams. Unfortunately part of the ropeway was closed meaning we had to travel to the other side of Hakone to get to Owakudani, and then once we were up there due to gas build up they stopped running the ropeway back down so we had to queue for a long time for a bus back down. Although we enjoyed Owakudani this meant we didn't have time to do anything else in hakone before we had to head to near Mt Fuji for our hotel.

    We woke up the following morning to find snow outside! We were supposed to be going to Fuji Q Highland, but due to the weather nearly all rides were closed. We instead went to Lake Kawaguchi for the morning and had a hot chocolate in a cafe overlooking the lake. We then did go to Fuji Q Highland for a little while, Tom really enjoyed the Evangelion World experience (based on a Japanese cartoon) and we rode the ferris wheel but nearly everything else was closed. We were disappointed to not get to view Mt Fuji or enjoy rollercoasters but it was lovely seeing the snow.
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  • Day1

    Arriving in Tokyo

    March 24, 2017 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    After a long and tiring plane journey where basically no sleep was had, we were excited but sleepy arriving in Japan. We had a few bits to sort out ready for the next few days of travel, which was time consuming but everyone we spoke to was very helpful. We are now checked in to our hotel and looking forward to having some food and an explore (whilst trying really hard to stay awake till Japanese night time!)Read more

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