A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15 - Kyoto - Tokyo, Japan

End of our honeymoon :-(

sunny 30 °C

We left our hotel, bought our breakfast in the 7eleven and caught the subway to Kyoto before boarding to 10.56 shinkansen to Tokyo. Once in Tokyo station, we headed for the luggage lockers to stow our rucksacks so that we could head to the Miraikan museum on emerging technologies.

We had just about given up looking and were now trying to find a JR ticket office to reserve our seats on the Narita express for our trip to the airport tomorrow when I managed to find a big locker. Annoyingly the large one next to it was literally just being taken, but it looked like without daysacks, we would fit then in. The locker turned out to be a perfect size and we were soon on the train to Shimbashi in order to catch the monorail to the museum at the telecom centre.

The museum contained various exhibits on developing technological concepts, space, sea explorations, energy sources and robots.

Afterwards we caught the monorail and subway back to Tokyo station and checked into our hotel. We rested briefly before changing and heading out for dinner locally with nothing more than some money in our pockets. It was nice to go out without our backpacks and we felt a lot freer.

Just up the road from our hotel was a small alley side street with a variety of restaurants. We settled here for a Mexican, which had just enough room for us at the bar; Salsa Cabana.

As the restaurant didn’t take cards, we had to go to the 7eleven up the road, which annoyingly only did 10,000 yen notes and we only needed about 5000 yen. We headed back to the restaurant and were squeezed in at the bar.

We ordered a pitcher of beer and some nachos to start and followed with some chicken in picante sauce, chorizo in melty cheese and some beef and salad tacos which were delicious. We finished off with Chris having chicken enchilada with red sauce and I had a burrito with beef, tomato and guacamole on top. We were both unsurprisingly very well fed by the end of dinner.

We caught a JR train to Shinbuki where we had a wander round before attempting to work the pinball slot machines. We failed to find somewhere to buy about a pounds worth of balls so tried using a couple we had found on the floor. At one point it seemed like I had won 5 balls, but they never appeared. We gave up and left with our ears ringing.

We had a look in a few shops before heading back to the hotel with a somewhat betty husband.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:20 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo kyoto japan mexican shinkansen Comments (0)

Day 14 – Kyoto by foot, Japan

Saturday 11th August 2012

rain 30 °C

Today we explored Kyoto on foot. We left the hotel and bought the usual breakfast which we consumed on a park bench. As it was incredibly humid, and already wet on the ground, I suggested we went back for the umbrellas, but Chris said we’d be fine, and so we set off for Nishiki Market.

=== Nishiki Market ===

Nishiki market was a permanent market, which was more like an arcade of ver small shops. Within the market, they sold fruit and veg, fish, food and various traditional shops sold the usual authentic Japanese items. In one of these little outlets I bought a glasses case.

We continued to the Gion district where Chris wanted to return later to go Geisha spotting. We crossed the river where we had sat and eaten dinner the night before and admittedly the sky was very grey as it was about to rain, but it just looked so dull and unappealing by day without all the fairy lights turned on in the trees.

=== Yasaka-Jinga Temple ===

We arrived at Yasaka-Jinga temple, just as it began to pour with rain. We took shelter near the entrance and waited for the worst of it to pass. We wandered around the temple before continuing through the park and on to a pretty small lake called Maniyama Koen. It even had a white duck!

We carried on, stopping briefly outside the Higashi-Otani shrine. We got a little lost at one point and found ourselves at a massive cemetery. Once back on course, we continued up the bustling streets of Ninen-Zaka, hoping to find some lunch; however we were clearly on a touris route where 1500+ yen for a lunch menu was the norm. We continued past Sannen-Zaka before arriving at the famous temple of Kiyomizu-Dera

=== Kiyomizu-Dera Temple ===

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Kiyomizu-Dera Temple was made up of various smaller temples and was high up on the hillside. It had a 3 tier pagoda towards the font. Inside the temple was a large prayer room where people buying candles to burn , writing their names on to burn away their sins.

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Outside on the veranda (in the rain) you had a great view of the mountains behind with Kyoto city in front.

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Temple sat on the hillside overlooking Kyoto

We headed back down the hillside and onto the streets. It’s now about half two and we are getting very hungry. We stop at a few places along the way, although they are either not suitable or have stopped serving food.

We arrived at Sanjusangen-Do temple and decided to continue down into town another 250m in search of food.

And then there it was. A McDonalds, still serving food, with air-conditioned seating. We both went for the masala gold burger meal from their Indian themed menu. It was just what we needed to pick us up.

We headed back to the temple in the pouring rain. It was really heavy now, and bought a nice yellow umbrella for 200 yen.

This temple was home to 1000 life sized Buda statues. They were incredibly impressive all standing in lines. Unfortunately photos are strictly forbidden. Behind the statues in a separate corridor was information about the temple.

Outside the temple, we caught a bus to Kyoto train station, where having spent a good half an hour looking at stationery in the best stationery shop ever called Loft. Chris decided he wanted to spend 3000 yen on a notebook in Kyoto station. After he had finally chosen the same notebook he’d wanted all along, we paid and headed to a café as we had about half an hour to kill before needing to return to the Gion district at dusk to possibly see some Geishas.

Finding a reasonably priced café with seats proved fairly difficult but we finally found one. We sat in the main station overlooking the main walkway for some perfect people watching.

Just before half six, we headed down to the buses and managed to find the stop we wanted straight away. The bus took us directly to the Geisha district, where we arrived at dusk, just before 7.

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Geisha district by day

Since Kimono have come back into fashion, this made it more challenging to spot a Geisha, but Chris is sure we saw at least one. Either way, as it was Saturday night, there were quite a few girls dressed in Kimono with their hair tied up more ornately than usual.

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Geisha or a girl in traditional Japanese dress?

After about 45 minutes, we headed back towards the river where tonight they had these beautiful orange cage like balls with orange lights and wishes inside. The balls varied in diameter, but were approximately 1ft in diameter.

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Lanterns on the riverbank

We sat romantically by the river for about half an hour or so before walking back to the hotel.

We picked up some food in the supermarket. I had a very nice pasta in tomato sauce with fish. Chris had some chicken nuggets.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 14:10 Archived in Japan Tagged kyoto rain japan temple shrine geisha gion stationery Comments (0)

Day 13 – Hiroshima, Japan

Friday 10th August 2012

sunny 30 °C

=== Hiroshima ===

As I awoke at around 7am, I could not remember where we were or which hotel we were in. I quickly went through the hotels in my mind before remembering we were in Kyoto (or Tokyo as Christopher prefers to call it).

We rose at 7.15 and left the hotel at about 7.45 to catch to the subway to Kyoto station. We bought some breakfast on our way to eat on the shinkansen.

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While waiting for our train, we took some photos of the bullet trains

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At Hiroshima, we bought a street car one day pass and headed for the A-bomb dome. The A-bomb dome was constructed in 1915 and became a treasured landmark for Hiroshima. It is situated approximately 160m from the hypocentre of the atomic bomb dropped over Japan at 8.15am on 6th August 1945. It exploded approximately 600 metres above Hiroshima and completely wiped out Hiroshima within a 2km radius of the hypocentre. It is believed that 140,000 people lost their lives either during the blast or as a direct result of exposure to radiation by December 1945. Those 3km from the blast might have survived, but were serverely burned and some lost their lives from the acute effects of radiation over the coming weeks.

The main structure of the A-bomb dome remains in place and in 1996 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It now received funding to be maintained to how it was left following the atomic bomb. This monument stands as a reminder of the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, and a request for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

After looking at the A-bomb dome, we crossed the river and entered the Peace Park. We looked at the flowers around the Cenotaph, which were still relatively fresh from the memorial service which had taken place on Monday.

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Cenotaph remembering all of the A-bomb victims

In the centre of the park sits the Cenotaph, which is a coffin shaped memorial which holds a list of the names of all the victims of the A-bomb. Towards the back of the park, overlooking the Cenotaph is the memorial museum. Entry to this is only 50 yen!

This exhibition went into great detail about Hiroshima before the bomb from about 1850, explaining that it had become a military base, with most of the troops leaving and returning to Japan through her ports. This was partly why it ended up becoming the US target for the A-bomb.

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Replica model showing the damage caused to Hiroshima by the A-bomb

It showed a scale replica of Hiroshima and the damage caused, with the hypocentre marked on and the bomb 600m above. There were various testimonies from survivors outside the 2km radius and a watch which broke at exactly 8.15am when the blast hit. It also followed the lives of a few of the initial survivors and saw how they were affected of the days, weeks, months and years from the radiation exposure. There were various objects recovered from the blast, including a lot of clothes. There were photos of the burns sustained by some of the victims.

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Peace Park

After the Peace Park memorial museum, we visited the National Hall, which contains information and photos of all the victims of the A-bomb and various testimonies and memoirs.

In the centre there is a 360° view of photos of the bombed city, with a fountain in the middle showing the time of 8.15 with water to represent the victims who died begging for water.

We headed out back into the park where earlier, we had been greeted by a young girl aged about 6 who asked us a questionnaire about our visit to Hiroshima in perfect English and it looked as though she had written the questions herself!

We bought some lunch at Lawsons before catching a street car (tram) to the JR station Yokogawa in order to catch a train to Miyajima-Guchi.

=== Miyajima ===

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At Miyajima-Guchi station, we caught the JR ferry to the island Miyajima. As we got off of the ferry, there was an interesting sign saying no touching or teasing. On closer inspection we realised it was referring to the deer that roam freely on the island. We walked a little further before Chris made friends with one of the deer. It was quite interested in Chris, particularly his hanging backsatchel strap.

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Chris’ new friend

We carried on walking round to the shrine, stopping along the way for a paddle in the sea. The gate to Itsukushima shrine stands in the water unsupported and looks beautiful and surprisingly natural.

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Itsukushima Gate

We carried on round the shrine and walked along the verandas, which stood on stilts over the water. The wooden frame of this shrine was painted bright orange and matched the gate.

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Chris and I in front of the gate

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The shrine with its verandas in the water

Afterwards we meandered back to the port through the busy shopping street before catching the ferry back to the station and the train back to Hiroshima.

Once back at Hiroshima station, we had an hour to kill before our train at 17.48. We went to the department store across the road called Fukuyama and searched for the stationery department, which turned out to be on the 11th floor.

We left at around 17.340 for our 17.48 train; however it wasn’t appearing on the board, only a train at 17.47. Confused, we had another look at our tickets and realised we’d been given Kyoto to Hiroshima reservations again, despite us showing the man our outbound tickets.

We decided to board the 17.51 without reserved tickets and hope we would not be left standing for 2 hours. We stood behind some seats of the back of the carriage until the first stop 20 minutes later when we were able to get seats. We had to change at Shin-Osaka but managed to get another seat. We arrived back in Kyoto nearly half an hour earlier than expected at 19.55.

We headed up the station building to see Kyoto by night; however this was nothing too spectacular as there was a distinct lack of neon lights and signs.

We decided for dinner we would have a nice McDonalds, which Chris had craved all day. Afterwards we returned to our hotel.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 11:21 Archived in Japan Tagged hiroshima ferry deer gate shinkansen cenotaph bullet_train peace_park a-bomb atomic_bomb miyajama Comments (0)

Day 12 - Osaka to Kyoto

sunny 35 °C

==Imperial Palace==

We left our hotel early, planning to go to Hiroshima for the day. We arrived at Shin-Osaka at 9am; however the next possible train wasn’t until nearly 11.30am. We decided to head to Kyoto and boarded the shinkansen. While on the train, we ate our sweet rolls, purchased for breakfast. We arrived in Kyoto and booked out tickets for Hiroshima tomorrow morning.

We took the subway to Karasuma Oike and our hotel wwas about 100m round the corner from the station. Very easy to find. We had high hopes of finding it again after dark. We were unable to check in, but were able to leave our bags, saving ourselves 1000 yen on luggage lockers. While at the hotel, we formulated a Kyoto plan. We headed off to Imperial park, with Chris convinced of the direction. Although wrong, we did find a brilliant backsatchel show, which we will return to as it didn’t open until 11am.

We wandered around the park getting incredibly hot and it wasn’t even 11am. We found the palace in the middle, although this was not at all pretty from the outside. It was however offering the only shade along its moat. I went to walk along the other side of the moat, where the shade was best, when an alarm sounded and a pre-recorded Japanese message played the second my foot landed on the other side of the moat. There were no signs suggesting that you shouldn’t walk there! A bit further up, another lady made the same mistake and the alarms sounded again.

As you could not visit the palace until 2pm, we sat under some trees and worked out what to do next. We decided to head to Arashiyama where there is bamboo grove.

==Bamboo Grove==

We got back to the subway and needed to change lines. We tried to use our ticket in the barrier, but it already needed topping up by 40 yen! We went through the barrier, and although we couldn’t find a price for the journey, we thought it could have been around 1200 yen. We decided to cut our losses and buy a day pass for 600 yen and take a JR train to Arashiyama, as Arashiyama station fell outside the boundary of the metro ticket day pass.

We arrived at Arashiyama just before 1 o’clock and began the 20 minute walk to Bamboo Gove. We found a fairly main street and decided to stop for lunch at an Italian offering a set menu for 1150 yen, which included a salad to start, followed by tomato and chicken pasta with bread and a cup of coffee to finish. All of this came with the free water, topped up regularly!

After lunch we continued a little way up the road before arriving at Bamboo Grove. It was beautiful. The bamboo trees were so wide and all arranged so neatly. It was really picturesque and also a lot cooler!

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Bamboo Grove: the photos don't even begin to do it justice!

In the middle of Bamboo Grove was this peaceful and somewhat romantic temple gardens. We walked around, admiring the variety of flowers. In the middle was a large carp pond, which had a stunning backdrop of the gardens and the mountains. There was also a huge temple, which we thought we could look around too with our ticket, but it turned out to be a different attraction. As all the walls were open and we’d walked around it twice, we decided not to bother going in.

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Temple gardens

We returned to the Bamboo Grove and headed out towards the river. By the river there was a boating lake. Normally I would be desperate to take a boat out; however this boating lake was completely in the sun and this was what felt like our hottest day so far. Also it cost 1400 yen.

We continued up the river, watched a man fishing in the shallow waters before arriving at the perfect point for a paddle. There was a ‘wall’ rocks running across the river, creating a small 1ft high water fall as it changed level. After about 5 minutes, Chris joined me in the water.

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Man river fishing

We walked into town and caught the train back into Kyoto, changing on to the subway. We headed back to centre of Kyoto station, which has an impressive arched roof starting about 5 floors up and peaking in the middle, some way above the 10th floor. On one side there is a department store; we had a browse at the stationery department; and a roof top terrace with ornamental gardens.

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Kyoto train station

To reach the other side, there is a skyway roof, a passageway which runs along the top of the roof. This walkway offered viewpoints across Kyoto. I would like to go back after dark; hopefully tomorrow evening.

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Chris and I posing on the skyway roof

On the other side was a terrace with trees lit up by fairy lights. We ventured back on the subway and travelled to Kamo-Gawa river, which was lit up with fairy lights, with a path of bamboo canes, with leaves attached and fairylights containing wishes on coloured paper.

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Decorations along the riverbank

We got dinner from a Lawsons supermarket and ate it next to the river. Once finished we walked along the river before looping back into town, heading along Ponto-Cho, a narrow alley street with many shops, restaurants and bars all the way along. Lined up were loads of Japanese lanterns. This was an incredibly busy and bustling alleyway.

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Alleyway all lit up

We finally checked into our hotel, worn out from te heat and the day’s advetures, not looking forward to lugging our bags up to the room, only to be asked for our luggage tag and on handing it over we were pleasantly informed that our bags had already been taken up to the room.

We went to be early, in preparation for our long day tomorrow.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 08:09 Archived in Japan Tagged temples kyoto japan station skyway Comments (0)

Day 11 - Osaka Castle

This morning we stopped for breakfast at family mart. We had the sweet roll thing from the Reyoken and also a chocolate version. We visited Osaka castle, which had an exhibition over 8 floors, which we didn’t really understand.

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Osaka Castle

Outside there were some beautiful gardens with various ponds and even a mini waterfall stream, perfect for getting my toes wet. We headed for lunch in Don-Don town, which by night is Osaka’s electric town, which is similar to the one in Tokyo. Chris had a beef curry with ‘melty cheese’ and I had some beef, salmon and rice miso soup with some cold green tea, which was not as bad as the vending machine version; although it was still not particularly pleasant.

After lunch, we continued on to Shisaibashi arcade and had a look at a few shops before heading back to the hotel for a nap as Chris felt unwell with a stubborn headache.

After our nap, we headed out for dinner, again trying to find the cinquento bar as Chris had found it in a different area in the guidebook to where we were looking last night.

We ordered a couple of cocktails. Chris drank a piñacolada and I had a strawberry martini. We ordered some bruschetta to share which came with cheese and lettuce as well as the tomatoes. Following that we ordered a BBQ pizza chicken and a chicken Alfredo to share. I had a ‘strawberry malibu’ and Chris waited for a delivery of beer. After about 5 minutes, a new barrel arrived at the bar.

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Enjoying our cocktails

While waiting for our food, an annoying and relatively drunk Australian called Matt decided he was going to join us. He spoke to us for about 15 minutes, failing to take the hint on many occasions that we were more than happy in our own company. Finally he left us to go and annoy some other people.

We walked through Dotorbori, the neon district which was very busy, before catching the subway to Ren-Den town, Osaka’s electric town. This was completely dead and so we headed back to bed.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 12:51 Archived in Japan Tagged osaka beer japan castle cocktails Comments (0)

Day 10 - Osaka, Japan

Tuesday 7th August - From Takayama - Osaka

We awoke just before 8am and sure enough our breakfast was waiting outside our door. Today we were left 12 croissants! There was also the longest note that we have yet to receive. We had 3 croissants each and some green tea before setting off to the station at around 8.45am. Before leaving, we had to pay, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. The invoice was all written up ready.

We arrived a little before 9am and there were already a lot of people in the station, despite there being no train for 40 mnutes. We boarded the 9.37am train to Nagoya where we needed to change to catch the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. At Nagoya we had about 20 minutes to find the train and some food before boarding the shinkansen bullet train. On the train I ate my sushi and Chris had a tub of some incredibly frozen ice cream.

We had a half-hour walk to our hotel, in the sun. We checked in and washed some clothes before taking the subway round the corner to Osakaka to visit the aquarium Kaiyukan. At the aquarium, we saw many different and colourful fish, as well as otters, snow otters, dolphins and penguins. The otters were so sweet! They were constantly scratching and had such cute little faces.

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River otter having a good scratch in the tree

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Posing in the aquarium

The snow otters were adorable; they had big fur coats. There was one on the side who had dried and was so fluffy. There was one in the water just relaxing on his back (and scratching). There were loads of penguins; they had King, Gentoo and Adélie penguins. They were really sweet, but I'm not convinced that they had nearly enough space. The dolphins were striped and quite liked swimming and dancing together under the water.

Afterwards, we went to Tenoji to try and find the temple, but it seemed as though everything was shut for the night and so we caught the metro to the Shinsaibashi area and tried to find a couple of restaurants in the guidebooks. On failing that, we found an incredibly cheap and tasty pizzeria along with reasonably priced drainks. Chris had a beer and I had a mojito. We shared a cheesy garlic bread pizza and a keema pizza. Both were delicious and exceedingly moreish. Afterwards we headed back to our hotel, getting surprisingly lost on the 200m walk from the subway to our hotel! We couldn’t seem to find it anywhere, despite walking the whole way around the block a couple of times.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 09:53 Archived in Japan Tagged fish penguin lost aquarium otter Comments (0)

Day 9 - Takayama, Japan

storm 30 °C

We were awoken somewhat abuptly by the phone ringing just before 8am. Shortly afterwards there is a tap on the door and a lady is stood there with an unexpected breakfast on a tray. We have green tea and two bread looking rolls, which turn out to be sweet rolls, similar to donuts but without the sugar. With it came a rather long not written in Japanese.

After breakfast, we went into town to look at the morning markets selling fruit, vegetables and flowers. We continued up the river, looking at some other market stalls and in some shops before making our way to the temples. While at the temples, the skies began to darken and we could see thunder and lightening in the distance.

As we headed back down into town, the heavens opened and we sought refuge iin a furniture store. After it eased off slightly, we browsed a few more shops before heading cor a coffee and I had a couple of scones too with jam and whipped cream.

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Traditional cream tea, Japanese style

Afterwards we found the post office to post cards and withdraw some cash. We then went to the train station to reserve our seats for tomorrow. We had lunch in a traditional Japanese restaurant and both had a local beef 'Hilda' noodle soup.

We went to the Hilda Folk Village, which is a small village containing about 25 traditional Japanese houses dating from 1600. All of them had been saved and moved from a different area, which had been flooded in order to create hydroelectricity. Most were quite similar; some were a lot bigger with more rooms. All contained at least one fire in the middle of the living room, which is still used to stop the houses being taken over by insects or damp. Some houses also had an upstairs, which we later found out that this area was only used to keep and breed silkworms.

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Hilda Folk Village

Around the village, there were former lavatories, which looked very similar to the current traditional Japanese squat toilets, less the ceramic bowl. Instead the had a section of floorboard missing in the floor.

We visited the final house, which had been converted into a butterfly display and exhibition on the lifecycle of a silk worm. There was a display of live silkworms which you were encouraged to touch. They are incredibly soft. A lady soon joined us to clean out the silkworms and began to explain their lifecycle in more detail and how importtant they were in the past as a source of income.

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She explained that the current silkworms had nearly finished the growing stage and would soon be ready to make cacoons. A few of the first born were already at the cacoon stage. After that, they would wait for the moth pupae to leave, and then they could use the abandoned cacoon for silk. The pupae then become moths, which lay eggs. The silkworms never leave as they are dependent on the humans providing mulberry leaves. The lady put in new leaves, and instantly the silkworms came up to chomp on them. They're really noisy and sound a lot like rainfall.

As well as seeing the silkworms being fed, there was also a carp lake near the entrance where you could feed the carp these strange bread like sticks. The carp would all bash into each other in order to try and get the food.

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Koi carp feeding sticks

We wandered back down the hill to town and tried to buy some sake wine but there were no samples available. There was a small street festival taking place down one side street where they were selling food and beer. There were a few manga comic book style cars parked up. There was one white car which people were allowed to write all over in brightly coloured pens.

We began our journey back to the Reyoken, stopping off at a couple of supermarkets for dinner. Chris got some chicken nuggets from Lawsons , which were heated for us at the till. I bought some sushi from the 'K' supermarket across the road from the Reyoken. We also bought some wine, crisps and chocolate sticks,

We went for our Japanese shower before sitting on the floor for dinner. For some reason, the table in our room had been turned around and all the furniture had been moved.

We ate our dinner in our Kimono and drank our wine from our Japanese tea cups. We read our books before retiring to our mats. We had left the second porch door unlocked tonight in the hope that breakfast could be delivered to our room without us being disturbed.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:27 Archived in Japan Tagged temples rain japan thunder takayama lightening reyoken hilda Comments (0)

Day 8 - Tokyo to Takayama, Japan

==Takayama==

We checked out of our hotel in Tokyo and took the metro up to Tokyo Central Station. Once at the station, we got some breakfast and waited for our train. The fist section of the jouney was on a shinkansen bullet train. At Nagoya, I got some sushi for lunch, but Chris wasn't hungry as he had eaten the rest of his chocolate sticks. We boarded the next train, which was more of an intercity train.

The scenery had completely changed from city tower blocks to woods running alongside the river wish small towns in between. We arrived at Takayama sation at 15.05 and found our way to the Reyoken inn.

On entering the Reyoken, you leave your shoes at the door and are given slippers. Our room was upstairs and had 9 tatami mats. On the floor were two more mats set up as beds with our heads facing into the middle of the room. We were given a tour and shown where the communal baths were and I took some photos while they were empty.

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Our room in the Reyoken

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The traditional showers

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Showers and hot bath

We went for a walk around Takayama, which is a small traditional town although a lot more touristy than Tokyo. Most of the buildings are traditional Japanese architecture on narrow streets with a stream running just in front of the houses on both sides of the street.

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Traditional Japanese Street

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Flowers in the street

We think there might be a festival on at the moment as the streets, in particular the trees, are decorated with brightly coloured mobile type streamer things and what look like wishes tied on in Japanese. We wandered the streets and bought a snack. I bought some roasted rice with herbs on top and Chris bought what looked like meat on a skewer, but was in actual fact figs!

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Festival

We found a lovely traditional Japanese restaurant where we had a set menu for 1000 yen (approx. £8). We were given an appetiser of new potatoes in soy sauce and cucumber, which was much crunchier than ours back home.

I had stir fried vegetables with sweet and sour chicken, while Chris had fried chicken with sweet and sour meatballs. Both came with soup and boiled rice and watermelon to finish.

We sat by the river for a bit after doing another loop of the town, having a browse at a few of the market stalls. It started to really rain so we sheltered under a tree before returning to the Reyoken for a traditional shower and bath.

We headed down for showers, having researched the correct wash procedure. Separately, as men and women do not mix, we went into shower.

You sit washing on a wooden stool with a small cloth to protect your modesty if you’re me or to wash with you’re Christopher the flasher! After washing, you enter a very hot bath to relax before rinsing, drying off and putting your kimono on.

Before bed we wrote our postcards and read.

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Chris and I sitting on an oversized chair outside a furniture store.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:23 Archived in Japan Tagged japan takayama reyoken Comments (0)

Day 7 - Shopping, Rain and a lot of Food

===Harajuku===

Having overslept, we set off at 11 and looked into the possibility of seeing some Japanese traditional theatre known as Kabuki; however there was none on today at the Japanese National Theatre.

We caught the metro, where we stopped off for breakfast before cating the JR train to Harajuku. I ate a strange sausage roll and garlic latice and Chris had a pain au chocolat and wht was probably a chocolate donut. Harajuku is a large shopping area with the main street 'Takeshitadori' selling stereotypical, bright and colourful Japanese clothes and jewellery that you often see young people wearing. We found a stamp trail; however we only managed to find one. :-(

We headed onto Tokyo Plaza as it started spitting with rain. It then started absolutely chucking it down, and so we sat on a balcony and watched the rain. We soon realised that most people had appeared with clear plastic umbrellas. Once the rain had subsided, we ventured out back onto the streets.

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Tokyo Plaza in the rain

After about 5-10 minutes the rain returned with avengence and we took cover under the entrance of a Lawsons convenience store until we realised these clear umbrellas kept appearing, looking brand new. We wemt into the shop and saw people panic buying them for 500 yen. They had a good efficient little system going on where by a man was behind the till unwrapping them and your wrapped one was acanned and then swapped for an unwrapped umbreall.

We wandered around in the rain until we found a small restuarant doing a 3 course lunch for 1500 yen. We had sala, bruschetta and some sort of cold soup which had a sweet corny taste to it to start, followed by lasagne for me and penne arribata for Chris. Dessert was a tropical sorbet follwed by a coffee. The sorbet ice drink was so refreshing.

After lunch we had a browse around the shops before heading to Electric town in Akihabara.

==Akihabara - Electric Town==

In Electric town, we looked at gadgets and kimono and comic book stores. Some of their comic books are actually just porn!

==Shimbashi - Yakitori Bar==

We caught a train to Shimbashi, where we found an authentic Japanese Yakitori bar. We ordered a couple of beers and were given a small pot of I think warm seaweed and some sort of fish.

After a while, a man asked us where we were from and why we were visiting Japan. We explained we were on our honeymoon and a few minutes later the waitress came over with some complimentary cream cheese with herbs. As we were sat in front of the grill, we soon ordered some chicken wich was delicious followed by Chris having some asparagus wrapped in bacon with some sort of oil type dressing. I had a piece of fish. Not sure what type, but a fairly plain in taste. Perhaps cod or haddock. Even Chris tried some and although he didn't like it, he didn't hate it.

The staff were very interested in our wedding, looking at photos and rings saying Chris was handsome!

Posted by Roaming Rolts 13:33 Archived in Japan Tagged food rain japan shopping yakitori japanese_food Comments (0)

Day 6 - Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market

sunny 30 °C

==Tsukiji Fish Market - Tokyo==

Our alarms were set for 5am so that we could head down to the harbour for the world famous Tokyo fish market. We caught the metro at 5.30am and arrived at the entrance to the fish market a little before 6.30am. The street was so busy with mni-trucks moving around at quite some speed in all directions with the odd motorbike zipping through for good measure.

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Outside Tokyo fish market

Once we made it aacross the road, we entred the fish market which was contained in an enormous warehouse. There was so much hustle and bustle. Everyone was very busy preparing fish and everyone knew what their role was. There were still plenty of mini-trucks meandering through the rather narrow paths between each block.

It was one of the busiest places that I've every seen in my life with lots going on every way you looked. There were so many different types of fish. According to the rough guide, the fish market trades approximately £17m a day.

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Inside the fish market

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The famous giant tunas

After spending about an hour wandering around the fish market, we returned to the streets for some sushi. I bought some seaweed rolls, on with the omlette and some sort of fish and another with vegetables and crab. This was one of the most delicious sushi I have ever tasted with all the flavours binding really well together.

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Chris posing outside the sushi shop

==Hama Rikiyu Teien Park==

We headed across to Hama Rikiyu Teien Park, which fortunately opened at 8am in summer. We stopped off on the way for two very refreshing strawberry and berry smoothies with crushed ice. At the park, we were provided with complimetary audio guides showing the route around the park. Near the entrance was a pretty flower field with some red-orange flowers densly covering the area.

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We continued our stroll through the park which had many pine trees, one of which was 300 years old. We continued along the edge of the harbour passing various tea houses and mini lakes.

In the middle of the largest lake was a famous picturesque traditional tea house. It was all open and airy.

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Tea house on the lake

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Inside the tea house

Before leaving the park we stopped for a few minutes in a specific resting area, which was located in front of some pretty flowers. The flower bed contained over 60 different types of flowers.

We headed on to the main shopping street and spent about half an hour in the food section of one of the department stores. There was a vast selection of food on offer from sushi to biscuits to chocolates.

We thhen headed to the Japanese equivalent of Selfridges, Mitsukoshi, for opening time. All the staff bow to you as you enter at opening time. We made our way to a café across the road for a sandwich and a coffee before returning to take a look around Matsuya, a more resonably priced department store.

After having a good browse around the home section of the department store, we returned to the hotel at about 1pm for a shower and nap.

===Sky Tree - Oshiage===

We headed back out at 5 o'clockk to see the Sky tree, the tallest tower in Tokyo. In front of the sky tree, there was a traditional Japanese dance taking place with the ladies in Kimono and men in outfits similar to those worn for martial arts. There were children in a ring/platform area in the middle playing a big drum.

We walked up the raod a little way in order to fit the marjority of the Sky Tree in our photos.

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Sky Tree by day

As we headed back to the station, night was setting in and at 7 o'clock they turned on the lights on the Sky Tree.

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Sky Tree at nightfall

We caught the metro from Oshiage down to Kiyosumi - Shirakawa, where w bought different metro tickets as the train company had randomly changed. We caught the train down to Shidome, hoping to catch a ferry across to Bayside Tokyo; however this wasn't possible and so we took the monorail down to Aomi.

We headed into Palette town and walked through mege web, an indoor advertising centre for Toyota before heqading out to the ferris wheel. We decided to go on the 16 minute

romantic

ferris wheel ride and enjoyed the views as we went round. This ferris wheel is the highest in the world at 150m high. ll the cars on the wheel were a different colou going nicely through the shades.

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Ferris Wheel lit up

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View from the ferris wheel

We visited the harbour, which has a man-made sand beach. I went for a paddle and initially the sea felt cold but was actually lukewarm. We bought some sushi and a wrap for dinner and ate them on the beach. Chris also had some mikado sticks type chocolate sticks.

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Tokyo Bayside

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Messing around with the manual settings on my camera

Afterwards we took some night shots of the bay before catching the monorail and various subway lines back to the hotel. We arrived back a little and midnight and the subway trains were rammed full as if it were rush hour.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 12:30 Archived in Japan Tagged fish beach japan ferris_wheel tuna fish_market sky_tree Comments (0)

Day 5 - Nikko, Japan

UNESCO World Heritage Site

We set off to Tokyo station to catch our bullet train at 10.20am. For breakfast we had a couple of cinnamon sugar pretzels. We caught the bullet train to Utsonomiya, where we had a half hour wait before catching a faily old fashioned looking train to Nikko.

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Entrance to Nikko National Park

Once in Nikko, we set off on about an hours walk in the midday sun to Nikko National park. Once there, I had the opportunity to get my toes wet in a stream, which cooled me down beautifully. This was however short lived, as we hiked up some 100 odd steps in order to rech the shrines.

The first was a massive warehous with a picture on the font of the temple it contained. We struggled to find the entrance to this until later in the day. In looking for the entrance, we found a very peaceful Japanese garden with statues of Bhuddas. We visited a reasonably sized temple with lots of intricate wood carvings painted in mainly blue, red and green with an abundance of gold leaf.

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We headed down into town for some lunch. Chris tried the curry and I had a noodle soup with some sort of fish that was oval and flat with a bright pink swirl in the middle. It had a rubbery texture to it, similar to squid but nowhere near as chewy.

After lunch we headed back up to the temples. We finally found the entrance to the warehouse shrine. They are currently in the middle of a 20 year restoration plan. We went to the largest and most famous shrine, which housed enormous detailed golden Bhuddas. There were a few miniature shrines surrounding the main temple, which made the whole area look exceedingly pretty. On the way up to the schrine, there is another tower shrine, which is famous for sitting as high as the Tokyo sky tree. This shrine had the most amzing carvings and statues.

We caught a bus back to the train station and caught a train to Akihabara where we had dinner by the canal. We found an Italian restaurant and ordered some garlic bread to start followed by Chris having a strange meat pizza with sweet tomato sauce and salad on top. I had a noodle dish with peppers, aubergine and sausage. While we were waiting for our food, we had these strange spahetti sticks in a glass. Initially we were unsure as to whether these were edible of just for decoration. I bravedit and found out there were in face a type of crisp.

Our garlic bread arrivved and it looked like 2 sushi piecces. It was incredibly strong! My dinner arrived shortly after and was placed in the middle with side plates for us and tongs to serve. Why would they think we were going to share?!

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 12:20 Archived in Japan Tagged nikko japan unesco shrine Comments (0)

Day 4 - Tokyo: The Sights

Wednesday 1st August 2012

sunny 30 °C

We set off for breakfast at around 9.30am and found a bakery style café in Tokyo main station. We then set off on our adventure, taking a regional train to Lleno, where we walked through the park. In the middle of this park is a massive lake, which was covered in giant Lotus flowers. We had a lok around the temple, bought some inscense to light outside. We also bought this fortune teller, which contains your fortune in English.

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Fortune Cookie

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After this, we left the park and meandered through the streets of Lleno until we came across a large and interesting temple. This temple had smaller buildings around it and an incredibly long arch made out of orange sticks.

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We headed off down some residential streets, which had so many cables leading to the houses! We continued to walk with purpose until our map ran out. We then headed in the general direction before becoming incredibly lost. As we clearly looked lost, a lady approached us and offered to help. Following discussions in Japanese with another younger man, it was decided out best bet was to head for the train station. We walked closer, and were then approached by another man who was desperate to guide us. He explained how many stops we needed to take before letting us head off. A couple of minutes later, he came running back up to us. He had been mistaken; it was 3 stops not 2!

We stopped for a lunch of noodle soup before taking the train from Komagone to Nippori.

We took a stroll through Ginza, a local sopping street with quite a lot of hustle and bustle. Afterwards we caught the train to Ikebukura, which was noisy and colourful. This was a lot more like I had imagined Tokyo to be by day. We headed to the cat café, which had about 15 gorgeous pedigree cats.

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They were all so adorable! Chris decided he would like one with a squashed looking face.

After a browse around Sunshine City, we headed back to the station and caught a train to Shinjuku to head up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. On the 45th floor, there is an observatory, which shows off the buildings of Tokyo. We managed ot time our arrival perfectly as we arrived just before dusk and so were able to see Tokyo by day and night.

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View from the observatory

We headed back to metro station along the mile long subway tunnels! Once back in the station, we headed for the food outlets and attempted to find an English menu. Failing that, we ate at the restaurant with the most appealing pictures of their food and went for a noodle soup with pork and spring onions.

We continued through the subway tunnels to the Kabukicho area of town. On exiting at street level, our vision was filled with an array of neon lights. There were neon posters with clashing coloured writing written all over them. Every one was very loud with each outlet competing for your attention and custom.

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Tokyo by night

There was a huge slot machine arcade, which was brightly lit and quite busy. Out of curiosity, we went in to have a look. It was so loud it hurt your ears. We could not even hear each other shouting. There was just a constant and relatively high pitched ring from the machines.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 10:34 Archived in Japan Tagged temple cats neon lleno Comments (0)

Day 3 - Tokyo, Japan

sunny 30 °C

Tokyo airport has an incredibly efficient immigration border control, which is rendered pointless due to the inability to unload the bags and cases at more than one a minute. Oh well!

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On entering Japan, I was wearing my Superdry hoodie. The cheery immigration officer (never come across one of those before?) asked me about my hoodie. He smiled and informed me that although my hoodie was SuperDry Tokyo, Japan, the writing was in facct in Chinese!

Having finally collected our bags from baggage reclaim, we headed towards the basement to exchange our Japan rail ticket for our Japan rail passes.

Prior to this, we struggled to locate a trolleypark and decided to leave it at the side with a couple of others. Instantly a very jolly man came and took it from us, seeming very pleased.

We booked our seats on the 11.45 Tokyo Narita Express. As we approached the platform, the train was being cleaned and all the seats were turned to face the direction of travel!

This standard class train was probably a lot cleaner, more comfortable and spacious than the majority of the first class carriages in the UK. This train left exactly on time to the second. We arrived in Tokyo at about 12.45.

We set off in search of our hotel in the midday sun. We started off on foot and planned to go through the Imperial Palace Gardens; however there did not appear to be a direct route and so we opted for the metro.

Once at the hotel, we showered before having a nap.

We set off back to Tokyo (centre) and soon realised you were unable to go through the palace. We walked around the perimeter for 2 hours, travelling the opposite direction to all the joggers before ending up back at Tokyo main station. How glad were we that we had decided not to walk to the hotel.

For dinner, we decided to play it safe as we were very tired and had an Italian. Chris ordered a massive pizza and finished it before my dinner of lemon chicken thigh had even arrived.

We went for a wander before heading back for another shower and bed.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:50 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo airport Comments (0)

Day 2 - Birmingham Airport to Tokyo via Muenchen

Monday 30th July - Pit stop in the Fatherland!


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A Day in some airports

We made it to bed at 11.30pm and awoke for showers at 3.30am, still incredibly tired from not only the lack of sleep, but also the post wedding excitement.

After parking the car, we arrived at Birmingham airport with plenty of time to spare. Once through security, we purchased the obligatory Boots meal deal before making our way to Whetherspoon's for breakfast.

Finally we boarded on the 7.15am flight to Munich with Lufthansea. I was asleep before take off and awoke briefly during the flight, but not properly until landing.

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We arrived back to the Fatherland, where we had about 5/6 hours to kill before our next flight at 15.50. We wandered around, contemplated buying watches, before sitting down to read and have a nap.

A little late, we found an internet point where we were able to look at the wedding photos already on facebook. Can't wait to see the rest!

We boarded the plane in order to commence the 10 and half hour journey to Tokyo.

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We had dinner on the plane with some rather tastty sparkling wine to toast. I had a delicious Japanese curry and Chris had a paprika based German chicken dish.

We both watched a film. Chris watched 'The Hunger Games' and I chose 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. We both slept for some of the flight; however the plane was very cold and you remained aware of this while sleeping. Grr!

Breakfast was a jam and a strange combination of omlette, spinach, tomatoes and noodles. We landed on time a little after 10am.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:27 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Day 1 - Birmingham Airport Hotel

Sunday 29th July 2012

all seasons in one day 17 °C
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Having spent most of doing post-wedding sorting and activities, it was not until gone 6 that we were able to begin to pack. The task was then prolonged due to our tiredness from the wedding and also the lack of proper food.

Mid-way through, we stopped for a curry. I had my usual; chicken korma and rice and Chris had a Ceylon.

Finally our backsatchels were all packed and we hit the road in faithful Boitina a little before 9.30pm.

We spent the night at Birmingham airport travel lodge before leaving at 4am to park the car.

Posted by Roaming Rolts 15:16 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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