Japan

Japan

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  • Day155

    Spend two days in Takayama with my sister and her boyfriend. It was a bit rainy, but not as hot as in the rest of Japan :) We walked around the old town, did a temple walk and bought peaches from the morning market.

  • Day90

    After some really beautiful last days and sights on Oahu (incl a hike, some hidden gem beaches and Honolulu China- and Downtown) we finally said goodbye to the US and made our way to Japan with a short stopover in Taipei! Cracy town this Tokyo - already got acquainted with the many bathroom features and the difficulties of a smoker - and I thought America was hard on us 😉

  • Day88

    Einen Tag übersprungen, und schon sind wir im Land des Lächelns angekommen.
    Erste Herausforderung: mit öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln zum Hotel. Kinderspiel! Auch das Essen hat geschmeckt. Menükarten mit Bildern helfen natürlich;-)
    Sehr gespannt, was uns die nächsten Tage hier so bieten...
    Kleine Anekdote: auf der Straße und im Gehen darf man nicht rauchen, dafür im Restaurant. Kimi ist hin und her gerissen. Ahja, für das Klo braucht man eine Ausbildung:-)Read more

  • Day89

    Frühstück war anders, aber super! Auch ohne Bacon ;-)
    Baseball ⚾ in Japan ist ein Erlebnis! Hier lassen sich die Leute nicht einfach unterhalten, sondern machen richtig Alarm. Großartig! Vor dem Stadion trinken die Leute Dosenbier. Also fast schon Fußball Verhältnisse.
    Vorher noch Achterbahn 🎢 und danach im strömenden Regen ☔ zum Sensō-ji Temple. Irre Stadt!

  • Day6

    Back on the Bullet Train from Kyoto to the nation’s capital, Tokyo. From the train I caught a glimpse of Mount Fuji shrouded in mist. There was no snow or cherry blossom - it could easily have been Ben Lomond.

    Well, if I thought the other Japanese cities were busy, Tokyo is in a league if its own. What a huge city, teeming with people everywhere. A city of contrasts too, with noise, neon lights, huge concrete and steel buildings, as well as quieter areas with old wooden houses, temples and shrines. A myriad of train lines and subways - and yet everything seems to run on time. People seem smartly dressed, politely waiting in line even during rush hour.

    In my two and a half days here I have seen only a fraction of what is on offer. My hotel is located in the popular Asakusa area, and is adjacent to the magnificent Senso-ji temple which is thronged with people day and night. I visited Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest tower - the only structure to beat it is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. It was an exhilarating ride to the top and great views, although a bit overcast. I had a pleasant morning sail down the river to the traditional garden of Hama Rikyu Onshi Teien. I enjoyed more green tea in a lovely tea house in the centre of the small lake. (Their green tea is an acquired taste, Anne - thick and foamy like pea soup).

    I had an interesting free tour of the gargantuan Gotham City style Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building including its impressive Assembly Hall. I had Veritable Vera the Volunteer showing me round (on my own), and she kept laughing and saying how she wanted to see me in a skirt (I assume she meant kilt).

    Most of the rest of the time was spent wandering around Shinjunku - the modern heart of Tokyo. You can find anything you need here (and plenty you don't). There are some crazy things. They have what's known as Maid Cafes where girls in costumes serve food and drink in a cute manner with their voices screeching in high pitched tones. A girl in a candy striped short maid’s outfit and feather duster tried to tempt me in, but I just told her, ‘sorry, hen, but I've already got a cleaner’. There are Butler Cafes too, where buff guys try to tempt the ladies in. (Now, I don't have a butler!). There are even Cat Cafes, offering the chance to spend quality time with up to 50 pussies without the commitment of ownership. The nation is devoted to cartoons, which are prevalent everywhere, and there are even museums dedicated to the culture of Anime and Manga.

    There is a whole range of accommodation available from luxury hotels to capsule hostels. They also have what are known as Love Hotels. Instead of having to spend the whole night, you can rent a room for a ‘Rest Period’. Like Elsie in the song ‘Cabaret’ they rented by the hour. Due to the humidity I was fair wabbit, and felt like going in for a wee lie doon masel!

    There are literally thousands of restaurants and you really are spoiled for choice.

    Well, packing tonight for the long journey home tomorrow (although not as long as the journey to get here). Still pleased that I managed to travel overland (and sea) from Scotland to Japan by public transport - and no flights. I have been on a variety of other transport however - local train, Eurostar, Trans Siberian, tram, bus, subway, marshrutka, ferry, trolley bus and the Bullet Train, as well as Shanks’s pony! It's been the experience of a lifetime, and an adventure I will always treasure. Thanks for following my rambles - it's been great fun!
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  • Day3

    As the weather has stayed lovely, I decided to head out of Hiroshima city and spend the day on the island of Miyajima. A 50 minute tram ride took me direct from the hotel to the port of Miyajima-Gucci where I took the 10 minute ferry crossing to the island. What a beautiful place. A ten minute walk along the lovely front leads you to the famous O-torri Gate rising out of the water and considered to be one of Japan’s most beautiful views.

    Of course who did I bump into again but the Broons, and we shared sunscreen and took photos for each other. A feature of the island is the fact that tame deer walk about the street looking for food from the tourists. They were very sweet, and quite comical as they nosed into folks' bags and licked their ice creams. The most famous attraction on the island is the venerable shrine of Itsukushima. It was an interesting place to visit, with the O-torri Gate sitting in the water opposite, as if floating on the sea. There is a cable car up the mountain behind, but it was unfortunately closed for servicing.

    A visit to Miyajima appears to be a popular day out, and hordes of families piled on and off the regular ferries. The ferry was run by the rail company so I was able to use my Japan Rail Pass. There was a lovely peaceful atmosphere on the island in spite of the number of visitors, and plenty of shops and restaurants selling every kind of food (including fresh grilled oysters), making this a great day trip, and one which is so accessible from the city.

    I was sorry to leave Hiroshima as it is such a lovely city. Japan seems to be so clean and well organised with cheap, reliable public transport - no sign of any begging, graffiti or loutish behaviour, although I am sure it exists somewhere. People generally were polite and considerate, always queuing in line. Maybe Hello Kitty was a bad example.

    Later in the afternoon I boarded another Bullet Train and headed for my next destination - Kyoto. I can't believe how quick you can get between cities on these trains. It's like travelling on Concorde (not that I ever did!).

    I thought I would try one of the capsule types of accommodation in Kyoto. It was a berth, not unlike the one on the ship, but with a panel to close over for privacy. It was small but did have a flatscreen TV, pull-out table, mirror, light, power sockets and headphones. Linen and a towel were supplied, and there was free wifi. Also included was access to a Japanese ‘onsen’ - traditional bathing facility - with hot and cold pools, sauna and showers - very welcome after such a hot day. The accommodation was very reasonable is well located in one of the main upmarket shopping streets. The only complaint I heard was from an old English jolly hockey sticks type, who sounded off at the lovely young Receptionist ‘I mean these shops don't suit me at all - I don't shop in Louis Vuitton!’. Well, you can't please them all!
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  • Day2

    My berth for the 2nd night of the ship’s journey from South Korea to Japan was co-ed - 4 German girls had joined us with massive back packs, which took up half the room, and hairy armpits. After a reasonable night's sleep we docked at Sakaiminato in Western Japan. Sailing along the coastline in the early morning with low mist hanging over the lush green tree-covered hills was a wonderful introduction to the country. For once, us ‘foreigners’ were allowed off the boat first (Bye Bye Kitty!). At customs all my bags were opened and searched. They soon realised I wasn't bringing more than $10,000 into the country and let me go. A free mini bus was waiting to take us (well, only me) to the railway station where I registered my Japan Rail Pass I had purchased in the U.K. - Japan was now my oyster!

    The helpful station staff printed my Pass and provided a detailed itinerary how to get to my next destination- Hiroshima - a local train for a bit, then a Limited Express train to Okayama and then FINALLY - THE BULLET TRAIN to Hiroshima - YES! It is really well named, travelling at 200 MPH. Lovely, roomy seats and a nice touch - the ticket inspector turned and bowed to his passengers each time he entered or left the carriage- you don't get that on ScotRail!

    I arrived at Hiroshima in jig time, but had to be quick getting off the train as it only stops for seconds before shooting off again. At the station I overheard a Scottish voice and briefly said hello to a family (the Broons). I caught the tram outside the station to my hotel - the Righa Royal. What a great choice it turned out to be - beautiful foyer and impeccable staff who couldn't do enough for you, while constantly bowing. Being a copy cat, I have now started bowing to everyone in return! And the bathroom facilities - what can I say.- the toilet had a set of controls which disinfected the bowl, heated the seat, and acted as a bidet and a spray. I thought I would try out the heated toilet seat, but pressed the wrong button and a jet suddenly came from nowhere - well, could I get it off - there was water everywhere (and I mean everywhere!).

    Hiroshima is forever etched in everyone's minds due to events on 6 August 1945 when the US dropped the world's first Atomic Bomb on the city killing 140,000 and destroying over 90% of the buildings. The hotel was well located for visiting the Peace Memorial Park; the A-Bomb Dome (the remains of which have been left as they were as a permanent reminder of the horror of nuclear war). I visited the Peace Memorial Museum and found it extremely moving. As you enter, there is a huge cyclorama view of the city as it was, and without warning the next room shows the same view after the bomb - the devastation reduced me to tears. With videos of survivors’ stories and it's message to the world that there should never be another Hiroshima, this is a highly recommended place to visit when in Japan. Hiroshima is now officially a Peace City.

    Both in the museum and in the Peace Park outside, who did I bump into again but the Broons - Russell, Jo and their daughter, Daisy. It turns out they are from Jordanhill, and Daisy knows Orla Leese (small world, Marie-Claire). Russell insisted Daisy took a picture to send to Orla, of me lying on a park bench saying ‘look who we found sleeping in a park!’. They were a lovely family, and it was good to have a chat with them and hear some familiar accents.

    On return to the hotel I took advantage of their spa facilities. Initially I was put off because they made a charge, but it was well worth it. A beautiful swimming pool, steam room, and separate hot baths, plunge pools and sauna for ladies and gents. They even had a Powder Room for Gents, with free bathrobes, razors, gel, toothbrushes / toothpaste, hair gel, after shave and moisturiser! What luxury after being on The Vital Spark for two days!

    I was exhausted by this time, so had dinner in the hotel restaurant - a beautiful meal - again served with much smiling and bowing - I could get used to this!
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  • Day4

    Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan for many centuries until 1869 when the capital was moved to Tokyo. During its golden era, many temples and shrines were built, which are the main tourist attractions of the city. You could spend a month here and still not get round them all. I set off today to visit a few, and was surprised how many could be visited quite easily by public transport. Armed with my Japan Rail Pass and day bus ticket, I set off.

    Top of my agenda was Kinkaku-ji, the famous temple of the Golden Pavilion. I was not disappointed. The impact of seeing this gleaming apparition floating above the Mirror Pond was quite breathtaking.

    The next stop was the very photogenic Fushimi-Inari Taisha - vermillion coloured gates frame the 4km paths that wind their way up through the deep forest to the summit of the mountain. It was such an amazing sight to see. It can't be that difficult to reach the summit, I thought, when I saw some elderly Japanese citizens striding up before me. What they didn't tell me was that there were 10,000 of these bloody gates to walk though - and the hill got steeper and steeper. I was determined though and, after a few rest breaks, I made it to the shrine at the top. I can tell you I was knackered with a capital F! I was expecting at least a McDonalds at the top, but all I got was a cup of green tea sitting cross-legged on the floor of a tea-house. (Anne, you would have been proud of me sipping my green tea). At least the descent will be easier, I thought - wrong! The humid weather changed into a violent thunderstorm, and after waiting in vain for the torrential rain to subside, I had to just go for it - I tell you, when I reached the bottom I was like the proverbial wet dishrag!

    No more temples, I thought. I headed into my favourite Asian store to dry off - Takashimaya (Ken, they had a good sale on!). I then explored the Gion Entertainment District - with its quaint wooden tea-houses and bustling atmosphere. I attended one of the theatres there for a tourist sampler of traditional arts including a tea ceremony, court music, puppet theatre, flower arranging and Geisha dancing. It was very worthy, but very sedate - I thought we needed Dixie Carr from The Apollo Players telling the performers to make everything much bigger and ‘tae belt it oot!’

    Throughout the city there were a lot of girls dressed up as Geishas, which apparently is a big thing to do, although they were clearly party shop versions of the real thing. I'm sure June from That Looks Good could have costumed them much better.

    Well, Kyoto it's been fun - but tomorrow I'm headed for the real capital - Tokyo!
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  • Day5

    Today we had to get in the freezing cold pool. The shower was so cold I couldn't breath. When we came home, we went shopping to a place called Tairaya. Tairaya is a supermarket. I like going there because I can buy a lot of snacks! I bought : lifeguard candy, shredded ice gummy, melon soda candy and other stuff. we had mochi for lunch. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Read more

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