Joel Baldwin

Reformed office worker, permanent nomad, football fanatic and craft beer chugger.
  • Day58

    Heading Home

    October 24, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Last day. Mid afternoon flight but we ended up heading to the airport early and just hanging out. No dramas with the flight to Hong Kong, or the later flight from Hong Kong to Sydney. Train out to Prestons for a shower, a brief catch-up, and then borrowing the car to drive to Thirroul and re-uniting with Schnitzel!Read more

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  • Day57

    Tokyo Day 2

    October 23, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Another fairly relaxed day of sight-seeing around Tokyo as we'd done most other things we wanted to do. Started the day with a morning visit to the famous Tsukiji fish markets, though we didn't go at 4am for the tuna auctions! Next up we went to Senso-ji templ, a super picturesque temple in the centre of Shinjuku. Not particularly old, but iconically Japanese with copper-red wood and white plaster temples and a gorgeous square tower.

    Sushi train for lunch (or conveyor belt sushi as it's known here), then walked towards the Tokyo Skytree, one of the world's tallest buildings. Crossing the river on the way we noticed a strange building shaped like a beer glass which turned out to be the headquarters of Asahi brewing (one of the world's largest beverage companies). They have a public bar on the 24th floor where the drink prices were standard Tokyo prices - expensive, but not massively inflated by the location. We had a drink and struck up a conversation with a Canadian man sitting nearby who'd visited Japan a bunch of times. Interesting stuff.

    Eventually walked over to the Skytree but it's super expensive so we didn't go up. Wandered briefly around the mall below before grabbing a bento box and heading home.
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  • Day56

    Tokyo Day 1

    October 22, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    First full day in Tokyo - we had a list of stuff to see but decided to take it fairly easy as it wasn't that long. For today we focused on the Akihabara area which is one of the high-tech areas of the city. Robot restaurants, retro game shops, arcades, etc. Very Japanese. Had fun wandering around the enormous electronics department stores but didn't end up buying anything.Read more

  • Day55

    Temples of Nikko

    October 21, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Last world heritage site for what was an epic and long trip! Today we visited the Temples of Nikko, a collection of mountain temples in the city of Nikko, a couple of hours north of Tokyo by train. It's a pretty common daytrip for tourists in Tokyo so it was quite crowded (and also quite rainy, annoyingly), but the temples were quite nice nonetheless.Read more

  • Day54

    Tomioka Silk Mill

    October 20, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Today's World Heritage Site was Tomioka Silk Mill, a large, well, silk mill, located in .. Tomioka, central Japan. Built in the 19th century, it was one of the world's largest and most important silk processing facilities. It was another key plank in the industrialisation of Japan in the late 19th century as they opened up again to western trade and influences. It was interesting to wander around the plant, since it managed every step of the silk production process: breeding and nurturing the silkworms, extracting the silk, spinning it into thread, and then weaving it into garments.

    Later in the day we headed for Tokyo where we based ourselves for the rest of the trip. Had an evening trip to Shibuya which was quite cool!
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  • Day53

    Shirakami-sanchi

    October 19, 2019 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    Today's site was a large forested area right at the northern tip of Honshu, Japan's main island. The forest of Shirakami-sanchi is one of the last big wilderness areas in Japan - no towns, no villages, no farmland. It's mostly home to beech forests and rugged mountains.

    Since it's quite remote, we could only really get to the edges of the World Heritage area (the listed area is only the centre of the actual wilderness area), but we did our best! We did a roughly 90 minute hike through semi-rough terrain and pouring rain. Not the most fun site but we managed to tick it off.Read more

  • Day52

    Hiraizumi Temples

    October 18, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Shinkansen train to northern Japan today, north of Tokyo, where we visited a group of temples in the Hiraizumi area. These are all related to the concept of the Buddhist Pure Lands, a way of designing perfect environments and landscapes to assist in achieving nirvana. The temples here were quite nice, with the highlight a small 12th century temple entirely decorated in gold leaf - though no photos were permitted! Further north in the evening for tomorrow's site visit.Read more

  • Day51

    Mount Fuji

    October 17, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Under heavy skies we got up and got on today's series of trains, heading south towards Mount Fuji. There's a few different spots you can see and interact with this icon of Japanese art and culture, and for our visit we'd chosen to head for the town of Fujinomiya, located just south-west of the mountain itself.

    Here was the World Heritage Centre, and a good vantage point for viewing the mountain. Or would be, if it wasn't heavily overcast! Despite being basically underneath a 3500m mountain, we couldn't see it in the slightest. Nothing, zip, zilch. And it was raining!

    We headed into the World Heritage Centre which had some great displays about the mountain and was really well presented. It showed you through the geological history, the various climates at different points on the mountain, the history of man and the mountain, worship, art and culture, the works. We spent a couple of hours going through, really impressed.

    By the time we emerged, you still couldn't see anything. Of course! Nearby was a shrine that pilgrims climbing the mountain usually stop at (Fuji is worshipped as a Shinto god), so we stopped in here and had a look around though nothing seemed particularly different compared to other Shinto shrines.

    Grabbed a quick lunch at the 7-11 and then headed for a nearby sake brewery. They brew their sake with glacial runoff from Fuji, so we figured that was almost as good as climbing the mountain itself! Kind of.

    In the end, defeated by the rain and unable to see anything, we boarded a train bound for Tokyo. Our accommodation for the night was a capsule hotel to the north of central Tokyo, in an area called Omiya. Lots of stuff happening nearby, and we had a good wander around. Nearly had pizza after wandering into a place that did good size pizzas for 400 yen (about $5), before realising that the cover charge was going to be 500 yen each!! No thanks, we'll find a noodle shop instead. So that's what we did!
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  • Day50

    Shirakawa-go Historic Village

    October 16, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Another early start - of course! Multiple trains and buses heading north-east out of Kyoto up along the isolated central northern coast. After a few hours, we arrived in the historic village of Shirakawa-go. This is a small village of wooden huts that have an unusual design - tall peaked roofs like Scandinavian houses. In this isolated area they get a lot of snowfall during the winter, so the steeply angled and thatched roofs help with shedding snow quickly and easily. Unusually for Japan, the local residents also build multiple storeys of attics into these roofs, and use them for small crafts like silkworm rearing and silk production.

    Essentially it's in an isolated area without much arable land, so whatever they could do to increase their income was needed! It was quite a nice village, with a sprinkling of houses against a dramatic backdrop of tall hills - not quite mountains. Nice colours as well with the early autumn, though despite the remoteness of the area it's definitely made it onto the tourist trail and we definitely weren't the only ones! Oh well.

    Spent the day exploring and then a late afternoon train back to Kanazawa where we'd stay the night. We'd heard that train stations in the evening often have the best food: bento boxes, conveyor belt sushi and the like, so we hung around for a bit and then decided on sushi train for dinner. We stuck to the cheap plates of course, but still got a delicious meal for a good price!
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  • Day49

    Kyoto Day 2

    October 15, 2019 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Another busy day of temple sight-seeing today! Out fairly early on the bus, where our first stop was Ryoan-ji temple. Arrived right at 7:30am on the dot, just as the doors opened - I think we were the first visitors! This is one of the World Heritage temples in Kyoto, mainly noted for its large Japanese rock garden. It was an interesting sight, since you can only view it from the verandah of a nearby pavilion, and it's arranged so that you basically can't see the whole thing at once - you have to take different positions. There's 15 large rocks arranged skilfully in a bed of small pebbles, and they're organised so that you likewise can't see all 15 from any particular vantage point. The idea is that to see all 15 rocks simultaneously, one must achieve enlightenment!

    I'll settle for a drone. We hurried through here, enjoying the nice lake as well, before heading out and walking quickly up the hill to the next temple. This one is one of the most popular in all of Kyoto, and despite arriving at 8:50 in advance of a 9am opening, there was already a large queue! We waited and got in fairly quickly, where we were greeted with a beautiful golden pavilion on a lakeshore. Gorgeous environment. Was cool to see the different styles on each level of the pavilion, and to then wander around the gardens and enjoy different angles, though it was super busy and crowded here with tourists. Lots of group tours, unfortunately!

    Done with the two main things we'd done to see, and it was only 11:30 - not bad going! We debated seeing a few more temples but they do honestly get a bit samey after a while, and they aren't real cheap either! In the end, we just headed back to the hotel and relaxed for most of the rest of the day, though Shandos went out for some shopping in the late afternoon.
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