Japan

Japan

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  • Day13

    This is my last day in Kyoto. I will be staying in Osaka tonight, not far from here. The weather is excellent today. As I haven't seen as much of Kyoto as I would like, I'll delay my departure until this afternoon.

    This gives me time to visit Daigo-ji temple, SE of my hotel but on the same metro line. However, I will need to checkout of the hotel and store my luggage at Kyoto station. This I negotiate somewhat easier than before (practice makes perfect).

    Then it's off to Daigo-ji, I save some time by catching a train (not the metro) part of the way and then transferring to the metro. It's a bit of a hike from Daigoji station to the temple, but like Arashiyama it seems to be a very pleasant neighbourhood.

    At the temple ticket office I'm sold a ticket that covers the gardens and two temple complexes. Owing to time constraints I skip one of the temple complexes. The gardens are picturesque, seems to be par for the course this time of year.

    I want to grab some lunch before heading to Osaka. I disembark the metro at Sanjo station intending to buy some sushi rolls from the local Lawson store. But then I notice a gluten free & vegan cafe - divine providence! I sit inside and enjoy a GF hamburger for 1500 yen (18 AUD).
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  • Day30

    Wakkanai is a border town for Japan with Russia. Consequently the road signs contain Russian interpretations, which I haven't seen before.

    The 2 countries have been in territorial disputes over the islands between Russia and Hokkaido since the 1800s. The end of the 2nd world war allowed the Russian army to retake Sakhalen island, which remains in Russian hands.

    I drove around 40 minutes along the northern Hokkaido coast to reach Cape Soya, the northernmost point in Japan. The weather was excellent, affording great photo ops. A kind lady who was in charge of a tourist group took my photo for me at the monument.

    I walked up a road and stairs to a park that overlooked the cape. The Japanese built a watchtower here due to the tensions with Russia. I was there at midday and there was what appeared to be a service marking the downing of a Korean Air flight by the Russians in 1983 because it strayed into their air space near Sakhalen island. Lest we forget ...
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  • Day5

    The Asakusa area is quite close to Tokyo's Sumida river. I realize that the only time I've seen this river was on an August night when I went to the Skytree. So I plan to walk across a bridge, head north along the river, cross back on another bridge and head south back to the hotel.

    That's pretty much the way it played out. There's a photo showing a couple having a rickshaw ride, the rickshaw boys were in shorts in August. Some nice sunset photo ops from the bridge. Lots of people walking dogs or just having a river walk like me.

    Recrossing the river and heading back south, I pass Tokyo Cruises. Very tempting, 40 minutes cruising along the river on what is a beautiful evening. I feel a little underdressed to go on the boat, I'm sure it would be cool.
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  • Day28

    Daisetsuzan National Park is Japan's largest national park. There are 2 main portals to the park. Today I'm going to the northern entry, which is via Sounkyo canyon.

    The weather is still on the iffy side in the hour and a quarter it takes to reach Sounkyo Onsen town. I had hoped to take the Kurodake ropeway and do a small hike. Think again, the ropeway's closed due to inclement weather. The poor lady at the local Tourist Information is run off her feet trying to help multiple tourists. I don't wait to talk to her but instead walk through the town. It's dead, once again not being in season. The town's setting in the canyon is quite scenic (first two photos).

    I decide to drive further into the park. Route 273 (Kamikawa National Highway) splits from route 39 (Taisetsu National Highway) just before Taisetsu Dam (3rd photo) and continues around Taisetsu Lake (4th and 5th photos taken on the way).

    Once I turn around, the weather takes a turn for the worst past Sounkyo canyon and I drive once again in (at times heavy) rain. So outdoor activities are off the agenda back in Asahikawa. I have a quiet night and enjoy a pepper steak in the food court (last photo).
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  • Day29

    It's good to have ambitions, right? Well my ambition for the day is to drive for just over an hour back into the Daisetsuzan National Park, take the Asahidake ropeway to 1600 metres, hike up to the summit of Mt Asahidake in around 4 hours, ropeway down then drive for 5-6 hours to Wakkanai in the north west of Hokkaido.

    If it all pans out it will be a L-O-N-G day. I've been checking the Asahidake summit weather for 3 days and it's been consistently predicted to be clear for this morning. So I'm up at 5:30 and in the car by 7. I reach the Asahidake ropeway a bit after 8, manage to score FREE PARKING (I thought that was a myth in Japan) and buy a ticket for the ropeway.

    As soon as we all cram into the ropeway carriage (me and the tiny retirees of Japan) and it starts upwards, it's obvious we have a real problem (the photos are obvious spoilers). What weather forecasts can't predict is FOG, and there's a lot of it around.

    At Sugitami Station (the ropeway end point) we are at 1600 metres. All photos were taken here or a little higher. There is an observation deck and a short trail of around 1km. I walk towards the summit trail and start upwards. I see a couple of men who must be at least 70 walking some distance behind me. Although the trail isn't that difficult (and for once I'm wearing the hiking boots) there is no view, just a foggy void.

    As a solo hiker, I'm concerned about not being able to see the trail on the way back. So I make the decision after 30 minutes or so to head back down. The 2 men behind me continue upwards. I pass some hiking groups with the same intention (photo of 1 group). Why are they doing this. The conditions aren't particularly pleasant AND THERE'S NOTHING TO SEE.

    I take some photos around the ropeway trails, occasionally the wind clears some fog and opens up some of the landscape. A photo of a couple of steam vents is below but the video I've taken captures their hissing.

    So I'm back down the ropeway around 10:30 and start my drive north. Not particularly eventful, but closer to Wakkanai I get to drive on a FREEWAY (that's right, free parking and a freeway on the same day 😲). My car GPS has a little glitch for a while, leading me off the freeway onto a parallel service road. I employ executive override and we're back on track.

    It's after 5 by the time I reach Hotel Saharin, my home for 3 days. Long day even without the summit hike.
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  • Day30

    Soya Park is around 14 km WSW from Cape Soya. There's nobody else in the park when I arrive so I'm able to eat my lunch in peace and quiet.

    The real reason I'm here is that there is a 2.3 km thoroughfare known as the "White Road" that winds through some countryside and has excellent views. I don't have a lot of information as to where it is, but in an unprecedented event I actually find it 🤤

    Conditions are perfect today as I traverse ... one guy taking photos of his motorbike is the only vehicle I see for ages. There are quite a few wind turbines in the area but the wind is not blowing today.

    Because conditions are so good, I continue on at the end of the White Road. Eventually nature calls, which of course coincides with the arrival of the first car I've seen in over an hour. Sod's law, I suppose. Move on, nothing to see here ...

    The total walk I do is around 8.6 km. On the way back I spy a couple of deer in the distance. As I'm upwind of them they see me rather than smell me. They snort a couple of times, run a short distance, look back, snort again and run off. I take some photos but for reasons made clear in upcoming posts they're not attached here.

    The sunlight shining off the sea is extremely picturesque, especially with Mt Rishiri in the background (an active volcano on Rishiri Island). I drive back to Wakkanai, but there's more to come ...
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  • Day33

    It's a long day driving from Wakkanai to Teshikaga. Much of it is close to the Hokkaido eastern coastline so I'm able to appreciate the scenery. I take a detour to Kitami which turns out to be a complete waste of time.

    It tends to start gradually getting dark in Hokkaido after 3 pm so I'm keen to push on. It starts to drizzle and is quite dark when I arrive in Teshikaga. My hotel is around 3 km out of town and is technically Mashu but I manage to find it.

    The thing about Teshikaga is that it is quite central to the sights I want to see before I fly out. The first of these is Shiretoko National Park which is on an eastern peninsula.

    The way through passes Oshinkoshin Falls, so I stop and take the obligatory photos, sparing you the selfie I took. Then I drive through Utoro on route 334 before heading to the Shiretoko Visitor Centre. There is a track through to Furepe Falls that I take. I pass a notice board that has maps as well as a "bear calendar", which records September bear sightings. The Hokkaido brown bear is believed to be an ancestor of the grizzly bear so it's best to avoid them! Similar strategies to hiking in Canada, bear bells and plenty of noise. Being a Sunday with plenty of hikers around I think I'll be OK.

    I drive through to the Shiretoko 5 lakes entry and stroll on the boardwalk. Unfortunately half the boardwalk is closed for maintenance but I still take some decent photos. That's more than can be said for my drive up to Shiretoko Pass. It's supposed to be an extremely scenic viewpoint but pervasive fog (my 2nd nemesis after the Wasabi Octopus) ruins that.

    I drive back to the hotel at Mashu and stretch my legs, walking past the local golf course. No bears here either. It's around sunset when I return to the hotel, affording me a final photo.
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  • Day209

    For the first time in my life I went to Disneyland. There were Halloween decorations everywhere and even it was super busy, I managed to enjoy quite a few rides, parades and if course fireworks in the end :)

  • Day5

    It's another gorgeous day in Tokyo, so much milder compared to the +32 degree heat and humidity I remember from August.

    It seems like a good morning to check out the Tokyo Tower observatory. It's not as high as the Skytree (which I went to at night in August) but it's a bit more central.

    I shoot some video and take photos from the observatory. I think the video works better as it is a better medium for panoramic views, plus you get to hear my commentary about the directions, usually wrong 😝. These observatories can be a good way to orient yourself in a city.

    I head downstairs and walk towards Daimon metro station. I have a massage appointment for 2pm and also want to grab a meal before then, so I don't have a lot of time. The walk to the metro station takes me through Shiba Park, which contains the Zojo-ji temple complex.

    It's a pity I don't have more time as the park is lovely and the temple complex is impressive. All but the first of the attached photos were taken here.

    Back at Asakusa, the Thai restaurant I'd selected for lunch isn't open on Tuesdays ... just my luck. So I pick up some food from a convenience store and make plans for dinner.

    My massage is in-room ... given its lack of size, that will make it interesting. My masseuse turns up at 2 (ofc) and tells me to lie diagonally across the bed. She calls me "Mr Tim", I like that a lot 😊. The massage is good, there's no oil used and I'm fully clothed but the neck and shoulders get a good workout.
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  • Day7

    Korankei is a valley NE of Toyota City that is famous for its autumn colours. The lady at the Nagoya tourist information kiosk thought that I was a couple of weeks early - photos are attached, you be the judge.

    While not as time-consuming to reach as Haeinsa temple from Daegu, it's certainly not trivial. Firstly I take the metro SE to Higashiyama station. The bus leaves for Korankei outside the station. I have some time to kill so I wander in a loop through the township.

    Back at the station, the bus turns up right on time - you can set your pacemaker by them in Japan. My travelcard works on the bus, great, no need to scour my pockets for change. It takes over an hour to reach Korankei. Most of the other passengers are heading there as well.

    Korankei itself is, to be fair, quite touristy. I don't know, maybe it's the trained baboon act that gives it away? I'm into street food today, I try a chicken skewer first thing then some fried calamari just before going home. That one sits in the stomach for a while, probably deserved more chewing 🤔

    There are a number of bridges crossing the river. A red bridge called Taigetsukyo is the most famous for autumn viewing. I walk to Kojakuji temple and from the back of the temple take a hiking trail up to Mt Iimori (254 metres). The trail goes past a number of small burial sites at the lower reaches. There are other people on this trail, but I'm the only only one wearing hiking boots. It's quite muddy in parts.

    The summit views are disappointing as trees block most of them. Oh well, it's still a good place to eat lunch, far from the madding crowd. I take a different trail coming down that takes me to the north of the mountain, 180 degrees from where I started. So I walk anticlockwise right round the valley to return to the Korankei entrance.

    There are a few coaches coming in, time for me to head off. I backtrack on the bus and metro to return to my hotel in Nagoya.

    I later head out to eat. There is a restaurant called "Midtown BBQ" around 1500 metres from my hotel. I enjoy a steak there and chat briefly to the owner, who is a 63 year old man from Seattle. The background music is all 70s rock and pop, hello Led Zep, Supertramp and Boston! He tells me that live music is coming on at 8, comprising an acoustic guitar duo. I don't stay although I thought about it. Good for him, supporting the local artistic community.
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