Karen Long

Joined August 2017Living in: Queensland, Australia
  • Day14

    Tokyo!

    May 20, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We have a volunteer guide meeting us this morning not sure what this is going to be like. He arrived promptly at 9 and it was pretty obvious straight away his English wasn’t that great and he didn’t have a lot of knowledge or a way to interpret it into English for us.

    Anyway he took us on a nice cruise down the river and through Hamarikyu Gardens. It was so funny, Graham was asking him the name of trees and plants and I’ve never seen anyone less interested in a garden. Even had to look up what a Ginko Tree was, amd they are all over Japan. Next up the fish markets and a nice sushi lunch. Then on to the Imperial Palace which was uninspiring to say the least.

    By this time it was about one and really hot so we sent him home after that, and got the subway back to Asakusa, which as far as I could see is the best place in Tokyo. I’m sure there are some nice spots somewhere, but so many people, lots of traffic and exhaust fumes.

    Spent the afternoon walking around Asakusa, still plenty of people here too. Found a few souvenirs and had a nice dinner.

    It’s raining today but we fly home tonight so we don’t really care. Except my shoes are getting wet.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day13

    Back in Tokyo

    May 19, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Nothing much planned today except to get back to Tokyo. Two trains journeys to get there so we though we better stock up on some snacks. Luckily there is s supermarket just around the corner from our Ryokan so after packing up we left our bags with Ma and went to have a look.

    The choice of food in this place is amazing. Rows and rows of possibilities. We eventually picked a selection and some sushi for breakfast. So much packaging here though, for example, we wanted to buy a banana but you had to buy three and they were wrapped. Had our sushi, said goodbye to Ma and Pa drove us to the station. Neither of our hosts speak any English but she’s pretty good on the google translate on her phone, so we’ve all managed to communicate.

    Four hours later and we are in Tokyo. Now to find our hotel. I’d managed to lose my IC card somewhere on the trip so we sorted that and bought another one, changed onto the subway and found Asakusa.

    Everyone we’d talked to on this trip, tells us how busy Tokyo is and as we came out of that subway, Holy Moly so many people. Became obvious very quickly we’d arrived on a special day. Sanja Matsuri as it turns out, is an annual event held over three days and finishing in Asakusa. Three large mikoshi shrines are paraded around the streets all day and then head back to Asakusa Shrine at sunset.

    After checking in we watched them go past the hotel two or three times and the. We couldn’t resist had to go see what it was all about. Still don’t know really, and didn’t seem like many of the people we asked did either but it was all very exciting. Chanting, dancing, parading, street food. Huge crowd, we lasted about an hour and then had to go find a quite bar for a drink!
    Read more

  • Day12

    Takayama

    May 18, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    After our train hiccup yesterday we finally made it to Takayama just after 7. So much for the fast trains of Japan, We were on the stage coach the whole way here, took about four hours to go between two places 100 kms apart. On the plus side the last part of the trip was quite scenic. It’s a much bigger place then I was expecting and the trip from the train station to our accomodation and then out again to look for some dinner wasn’t too inspiring either. Very modern, wide streets, looks just like Brisbane.

    Staying at another Ryokan here with its own Onsen. Tried it out a couple of times, and it’s nice but lying around in a hot bath for too long is not really my thing. Might be different if it was outside under the stars or trees. No dark curtain here, so we are up early and set off to find Takayama’s charms, if she has any. Turned out to have quite a few.

    There are several things I wanted to do here but they all involve and hour and a half on a bus and we’re a bit over trains and busses so we’re having a day wandering the town.

    We started with the morning market, which is on the other side of the train line from us and it’s obviously an older part of town then where we’re staying. It’s a bit like a local farmers market with some interesting stuff, not many people about yet. After getting a coffee we decided we’d better go see the famous narrow streets of its Sanmachi Suji historic district before it got too busy. They are lined with wooden merchants’ houses dating to the Edo Period, along with many small museums.

    They are lovely, like all the old towns in Japan. So well restored, clean and tidy. They all turn into shops later in the day and there are a few people out getting ready, washing windows doing a bit of pruning. Every bit of spare ground in Japan is turned into a beautiful garden even if it’s only a few meters square. They are always flowers and sculptured trees, topiaries, statues, lanterns. Hard to distribute but so pretty.

    Our walk took us past another little market at the entrance to Takayama Jinya and as it was opening we went in for a look. No it’s not a shrine or a temple. This was a local governor’s office during the Edo period. There were once lots of these buildings all over Japan however Takayama Jinya is the only one left today. It included residential area and storehouses for rice paid as tax. Not to mention a courthouse and torture room.

    Walking back towards to market, we saw about four or five tourist buses pulling in. Glad we got up early today. Found another good coffee vendor here and as a couple of those busses were full of Australians he was doing a roaring trade.

    Takayama has turned out to be a surprisingly lovely little city. Pretty streets and gardens, nice shops, and restaurants. We found a great Ramen restaurant for lunch, first time for it too. It never looks too appetising but it was delicious.

    We headed out to Hida Folk Village after lunch, its more like one of our historical village, not commercial at all and very rustic. It’s more about the arts and crafts and the history of the ares. They had quite a few people there demonstrating pottery, painting ceramics, braided cord.

    We managed to fill our day in quite nicely and are ready to tackle another train trip back tomTokyo. We’ve been down to buy the tickets and This time we will be there early!
    Read more

  • Day11

    Magome to Tsumago walk

    May 17, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Walking across Magome pass between these two post towns. Some of it on the original paved roads they used in the Edo period. We had another coffee at Keiko’s sons shop before we left and talked to a young Australian guy who walked across yesterday but in the opposite direction, big mistake apparently.

    The first Thirty or forty minutes is a bit steep in places and while it was a bit cool this morning we soon worked up a sweat. Most people come to this ares to see these two lovely restored towns and to do this hike so we except to have a lot of fellows travellers. They is a few around us but mostly everyone spreads out very quickly.

    Cedar forest, bamboo groves, waterfalls, cobbled pathways, little villages, lovely gardens and of course temples and shrines. About half way across we came to a resthouse staffed by volunteers where you serve you tea and lollies to keep you energised for the rest of the trip. It is an original two hundred year old farmhouse.

    It is a very picturesque, fairly easy walk, although we did meet quite a few people going the other way and they looked like they were suffering. Thank goodness for some research beforehand.

    Tsumago is a nice little village too, much quieter and more residential. We had some soba noodles for lunch, picked up our bags from the tourist information and missed our train by 1 minute. 🥴
    Read more

  • Day10

    Magome

    May 16, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    We’re venturing out of the city today and up into the mountains. Taking our first trip on the Shinkansen to Nagoya and then on to Natasugawa and Magome. That fast train is unbelievable, 2 hours driving or thirty minutes on the Shinkansen.

    Took a while but we finally made it out of the city, Arriving at Magome we were a bit lost on where to look for our Ryokan, Graham went into a little shop to ask, “oh I ring” she says 2 minutes later a car arrives for us. Amazing service. Keiko our hostess is lovely, served us tea and snacks and drove us back uptown once we’d got rid of our bags. We spent the afternoon wandering Magome streets which are all gorgeous, my new favourite place in Japan.

    Magome and Tsumago are two restored and preserved Edo-period post towns on the Nakasendo highway in the Kiso Valley. Tomorrow we are walking the post road between the two, about 8kms, let’s hope not all of it uphill.
    Read more

  • Day9

    Kurama to Kibune Hike

    May 15, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Today we set off for the outskirts of Kyoto. Think we got on the school bus run, all the Mums and littlies where on there. They are so cute, the kids are always fasinated with us. The little one just stare at you, and the bigger one wave or try out some hellos. Changed to the train to go up the mountain and luckily one of the guards must have been listening to us, there were two waiting there to choose from and we were on the wrong one. We still can’t figure out how that happened.

    This is only a little train and takes about half an hour to chug up the mountain and stop at every stop. I’d read someone’s recommendation for this hike to go the opposite way to most directions. So we hoped off on the second last stop at Kibune. Got the bus into town which is still another couple of kls up hill and after a look at Kibune-jinja Shrine.

    Found the entrance to our walk and paid the ¥300 to enter. My informant had said it was easier going up this way, it’s pretty steep but you get then worst part over in the first 20 minutes. He wasn’t kidding, steep doesn’t seem to be an appropriate word for it. Halfway up we were starting to think my inside informant was taking the piss, but it did get easier once the first lots of switch backs was over. There were quite a few rests stops on the way up. Luckily it’s quite cool here in the mountains and a bit overcast today as well. And there are not many other tourists so that’s a plus!

    Turned out to be a beautiful hike, little stops for temples and shrines, beautiful big trees, gorgeous Kurama-dera temple which sits on top of the mountain with spectacular views. Beautiful vistas everywhere you looked. And yes I think he was right in the end it was a nicer way to come across the mountain from Kibune. A great reward to get to Kurama-dera temple and all the beautiful lanterns and granite pathways down to Karama. Although we skipped the last few hundred meters of stairs and came down the Cable Car.
    Read more

  • Day8

    Fushimi Inara Shrine

    May 14, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Our quest this afternoon is to find Fushimi Inara Shrine. It’s famous for its vermilion torii gates. We set off about fourish to look for it. Getting off the train it is just across the road and there were people everywhere again. Luckily the temple grounds go right up to the top of Inari Mountain and the people thin out more and more the higher up you go. Thank goodness don’t think we could handle a repeat of the Bamboo Forest.

    The orange pathway trails lead into the wooded forest of Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and winds around the mountain if your legs hold out that is. Luckily almost a week of using the Osaka Subway has made us stair fit and after a few little rests we got to the top.

    Photo opportunities around every corner, lots of shrines and small temples to see on the way up, and a couple of lovely stops to see the view. Foxes were supposed to be Inara’s messengers so there are hundreds of fox statues all along the paths.

    I’d like to know how many stairs there are to the top, a hell of a lot my legs were telling me. Less and less people as we were coming down and by the time we got to the bottom again, it was almost deserted.
    Read more

  • Day8

    Arashiyama

    May 14, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We set off to see the Bamboo forest this morning, the plan was to get up early and go but that didn’t happen, our room is so dark you have no idea what time it is. it’s about a half an hour trip on the bus up to the foot of the mountain. It is supposed to rain today , but there no sign of it yet and it was hot when we got off the bus. Coincidently there was a rickshaw driver waiting right there and after a bit of barter we hopped on. Goodness these guys must be fit, we felt a bit bad, this poor young thing having to haul us over the bridge and up a few streets, but he seemed so delighted we wanted to come for a ride with him so I guess it must be worthwhile for him. Those drivers are amazingly strong.

    That rickshaw ride turned out to be the only time we weren’t surrounded by people, so many people, cameras, posing everywhere. The bamboo was planted originally to protect the temples on the mountain from evil spirits. It is a beautiful grove and they are massively tall bamboo, I don’t feel we saw it in the best light really, it’s hard to enjoy the serenity when it’s so crowded.

    After taking our obligatory 5 thousand photos we went into the Tenryuji temple grounds, there’s an entrance fee, so it’s much quieter in there. It was a lovely area with of course a gorgeous garden. Lots of cherry trees, would have been incredible a month or so ago when the blossoms were out.

    Found a lovely little Resturant and had a feast of a set menu for lunch, I’m even getting to like the Miso soup.
    Read more

  • Day7

    Kyoto

    May 13, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Hopped the train to Koyto this morning, and dropped our bags at the hotel when we eventually found it. Yet another enormous food market just a few blocks away, this one with lots of taste testing, no idea what a lot of it was, probably just as well, but most of it was Yummo. Goodness my feet by the end of it, Had to come back for a little rest before heading out again.

    We headed down to Gion about five, it’s where the geishas work and we’re hoping to spot some. Took the bus this time, interesting trying to figure out a bus route in Japanese. Luckily it wasn’t far and we managed to get on the right bus. Spotted our first geisha about two minutes after getting off the bus.. It’s a bit difficult at first because there are so many tourists dressed up as geishas, although they are usually in a pack or with a samarai partner.

    We found a back street which seemed to be a favourite short cut for them and I think we saw 7 or 8 genuine ones over the evening. They are quite beautiful, really, very modest, never look at you., walk very fast and with a definite purpose. Probably sick to death of tourists. It is very exciting when you do see one. Graham said “ This is like wildlife spotting, waiting for them to come out at dusk, stay very still and don’t frighten them” in his best David Attenborough voice.

    Gion is a beautiful place too, part of the old town with so many gorgeous old streets and laneways. And resturants, expensive restaurants, no advertising on most of them, the occasional piece of paper with the price for a set meal. So many it was incredible. We wandered around looking at the streets and laneways for a while and trying to decide on a place for dinner. So hard. Eventually we just had to pick one, 6 courses and they were all amazing. Our own little room with our own personal waitress. Such a great experience, might not have enough to pay the motel bill now but it was worth it.

    There was this funny little ball on the table that Graham started playing with, 2 seconds later in pops the waitress, looks at him “yes?” Graham “oh that’s what’s this is for? “Yes you pushl I come “ 😂😂 I don’t know what you could possible want they haven’t already thought of, she was in and out of the room every few minutes bringing stuff we didn’t even know we wanted.
    Read more

  • Day5

    Sound Messe

    May 11, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    Sound Messe, the reason for coming to Japan. Two intensive days of guitars displaying, playing, talking. The language barrier makes it all very interesting to say the least. Such a huge display of instruments, lots of retail stores, commercial booths, whole room full of electric guitars and a quite a large section of handmade instruments. Some amazing quality instruments here from all over the world.Read more

Never miss updates of Karen Long with our app:

FindPenguins for iOS FindPenguins for Android