Tokyo, JapanMarch 25, 2016 in Japan
The final destination on the trip was Japan. I flew from Hanoi to Osaka with China Southern Airlines, with a five hour stopover in Baiyun airport, Guangzhoa, China. In Osaka, I got the Kansai Express airport train to Fukushima. The train system here is like one I've never seen before. Not only are the trains punctual and clean, everyone forms an orderly queue when boarding it and there is no manic rushing or pushing onto the train, unlike in other cities I've been to. I arrived at J-Hoppers Backpackers at about 10.30pm, and bedded in for the night. However, nature called and I headed to the toilet and to my amazement the toilet seat was heated! And then I noticed that the sink was on top of the cistern. Some unusual piece of technology! I knew then that this country was going to constantly surprise and amaze me.
Next morning I got up to do the walking tour organised by the hostel owner, Mr Yoku. The 70+ year old man with a shuffling gait and an infectious laugh, showed us around the Temma area and teaching us a bit of Japanese along the way. First stop was Tenjimbashiauju Shopping Street which is the longest shopping street in Japan, measuring 2.6km with over 600 shops on it. Mr Yoku pointed out some of the local delicacies and the cheapest places to buy beer. Next we went to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, and learned about Osaka's Edo period (1830's), with models of the streets and buildings from that time. Then we entered a local restaurant to make the local dish of okonomiyaki. It is a savoury pancake make of cabbage, onion, egg, yam, pickled ginger, water and flour. You fry it on the teppan (hotplate) in the middle of the table and when cooked, the waitress dresses it with Japanese mayonnaise, otofuku sauce (Worcestershire sauce) and aonori (seaweed flakes). This dish was deceptively filling and we struggled to finish two between three of us.
That evening, I went up the Umeda Sky Building and Floating Garden to watch the beautiful sunset over looking the Hokusetsu mountains. Then I walked to the colourful Ferris Wheel on top of the building HEP FIVE building. I entered my first Japanese style multi story shopping mall with 8-10 levels of various electronics and clothing etc. A vary daunting place!
Next day, myself and Nadine from Beijing spent a day sightseeing around the city. First stop was Osaka Castle and we went up the main tower for a skyline view of the city. Then we visited some of the city's famous temples including Shitennoji temple and Hozenji temple. That evening the hostel held an International Party with Argentinians, Aussies, Brazilians, Israelis and Italians joining the locals for drinks and Takoyaki (battered balls with various fillings).
The following day I headed to Miyajima Island and Hiroshima city with Sunrise Tours. We got the Shinkansan (bullet train) from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima Station, taking only 75 mins to do the 330km journey. Here we were met by our guide for the day Mr Teddy and were brought to the ferry to Miyajima Island. We got a beautiful view of O-Toru Gate made from camphor wood which sits on the seabed making it look like it's floating on water. Next Mr. Teddy showed us around Itakushima Shrine and Daisha-In temple. We learned about the meanings of the various symbols and rituals of Buddhism and Shintu religions. After lunch we went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park where we visited the Atomic Bomb Dome which is one of the only few buildings in the city to survive the horrendous attack in 1945. The Park also contains various monuments and peace symbols to remember the 80,000 people who died during the attack. There was a definite sense of calm and tranquillity as you walked around the park. Next we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial museum and saw some of the photos and items left behind after the devastating World War Two event. We then got the Shinkansan back to Osaka after another enjoyable and educational day.
Next stop was Kyoto where I stayed in Hostel Mundo Chiquito. First I went to Kyoto Imperial Palace and Park and walked around the beautiful grounds with the gorgeous plum trees in full bloom. In the evening, I walked through the narrow streets of the Gion and Pontocho districts, where the teahouses and restaurants were decorated with lanterns and fairy lights.
Next day I bought a one day bus ticket and did my own mini bus tour of the popular sights of the city including the Kinkakyi Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Tenryiyi Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Fushimi Inari Shrine. These were one of my favourite sights and temples on the trip and a really enjoyable day.
That night I got a night bus to Tokyo with Willer Express. I stayed in the Khaosan World Asakusa Hostel in Tokyo. I met Nat (of Shortland Street fame) and we went to @home Cafe. This is a quirky/unusual cafe where the waitresses dress in French maid uniforms and serve the food on cute plates and you have to sing a song together before you eat. All a very unusual and uncomfortable experience!
Next day I took a two hour bus from Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko station to see Mount Fuji. I walked around Lake Kawaguchiko and went up Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway cable car for amazing views of Japan's highest mountain. Such a beautiful sight of the snow capped mountain. When I arrived back in Tokyo, I went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for an great view of the city skyline.
I awoke the next morning to a wet and cold Tokyo, so it was time for some indoor activities. I headed to the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The demonstrations included the latest stem cell research, a model of the International Space Station and a large scale globe. I also took part in a gait analysis research project where they are looking at using a person's walking pattern as an identification tool in investigating crimes and missing persons. They were also looking at how much people can actually concentrate on another task while walking. Such interesting projects. When the weather cleared up, I headed to the famous Shibuya Pedestrian Crossing, the world's busiest crossing, where ten lanes of traffic and five pedestrian crossings converge. I sat and watched the coordinated passing of people and traffic at this mesmerising place. Final stop was the Yoyogi Park and the lovely Meiji Jingu temple built in 1920.
My final day in Tokyo ran in line with the start of the cherry blossom season, Japan's national flower. So I headed to Ueno Park where there are designated areas to sit and have a picnic under the rows of the blooming trees. Next I went to the beautiful Imperial Palace East Gardens to see more cherry blossoms, spring flowers and fruit. I finished the day visiting the Sensoji Temple, Five Storied Pagoda and Kaminarimon on the Nakamise shopping street.
That evening it was time to hit the airport one last time as I flew home with Emirates to Dublin. It's hard to believe that this amazing trip is over. I saw some amazing things and did some incredible things. So lucky to have had the opportunity to do it all. But it's back to reality now and try be a proper grownup!!Read more