A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: j0ne5y

Tokyo

all seasons in one day 6 °C

The final stop on the journey was Tokyo, here for three nights before heading home.

Over the course of the three days we managed to get to most of the key districts in the city, such as Shibuya, Ginza, Harajuku, Asakusa, Akihabara, Shinjuku, etc.

For me the highlights were wandering the old shopping streets of Asakusa, the Tsujiki Fish markets, and the buzz of Shibuya.

For the final morning before heading home, we were lucky enough to get ourselves on a tour to go watch sumo's train for a tournament next week. As far as unique cultural experiences go, this ranks right up there with one of the best I have been able to witness during my travels. Don't get me wrong, sitting in silence watching half naked chubby guys slam into each other and wrestle is not exactly excitement plus, however seeing the social order and rankings of a sumo stable along with the training techniques and customs play out was fascinating to see. One of them was even kind enough to take some photos with us afterwards, which was a nice touch. If you are in Tokyo, I highly recommend you try to get along to see this.

So we now start the journey home, 1 train ride, 3 flights and approximately 20 hours later we will be back in Launnie, hopefully greeted by some sunshine and warm weather.

Sayonara Japan!

Kampai!!

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Posted by j0ne5y 01:11 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Hakone

sunny 4 °C

Been a bit slack with my updates the past few days, so given I have woken at 5am and can't get back to sleep, I figured I should make use of the time.

After Kyoto, we left early for hakone, a small mountainous area about 45 mins via Shinkansen out of Tokyo. Hakone is best known for its natural hot springs (lending themselves nicely to many an onsen in the area) and the spectacular views of Mount Fuji.

The day we were there was cold but clear and sunny, so perfect for sightseeing. We made our way via bus on the narrow roads from Odawara to the hotel we were staying at, a family run inn, to drop our bags, and set off. The sightseeing loop recommended by our hosts had us taking bus, cable car, ropeway, a lake cruise, and finally another bus back to the hotel. With some snow still around, the scenery was beautiful, and I am really pleased we made the stop off for the night here.

Heading back to the hotel after sunset in the freezing temperates, I was increasingly looking forward to getting to try out the hotels onsen that I had booked upon arrival. Whilst most onsens are public facilities, this one offered the option of a private indoor onsen, which I was much more comfortable with. It was pure bliss to be able to soak in the beautifully warm water of the natural hot spring after almost two weeks of walking, cycling, countless steps in and out of subways and carrying a backpack. In fact it was so good, I reserved it again for the next morning before we departed.

With some time up our sleeves before our train departed for Tokyo, we made use of it by wandering around Odawara and the castle there, before jumping back onto the Shinkansen to Tokyo. So whilst it was only a brief stop on the journey, Hakone was definitely one of the many highlights of the trip.

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Posted by j0ne5y 13:36 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kyoto

overcast 6 °C

Kyoto was next stop on the journey for the next couple of nights. We arrived around lunch time on Saturday, and spent the afternoon wandering around the shopping area through narrow arcades well in everything from local sweets and dried fish, through to shoes and beanies. With some bargains on offer, we spent some time looking at and trying on some shoes. Whilst I was quite happy with the couple of pairs of shoes I picked up, Sam was becoming increasingly grumpy as it became apparent shoes in her size are difficult to find in Japan. One size bigger than the maximum women's shoe size here, yet also one size smaller than the men's shoes, she was trapped in shoe purgatory.

Whilst I was pleased with the shoe purchases, I was most excited about finding a specialty knife shop in the Nishiki markets. Buying a handcrafted carbon steel knife was one of my key items on my list for this trip, so I was pretty chuffed to pick up not only a general purpose double edged knife, but also a single edge sashimi knife to take home with me. Fortunately the man at the store wrapped them up fairly tightly, so I am not tempted to try them out whilst still in Japan, which my fingers and travel insurer is probably most happy about.

That evening Kurt, Yuka and Luca made the journey up from Osaka to meet us for dinner, which was good to be able to spend some time with them again before we headed off towards Tokyo and then onto home.

The next day in Kyoto we had an early start for our cycle tour. Whilst it was pretty chilly on the bike (about 4 degrees and a few snowflakes) it was a nice change up from walking and a good way to get around the city and visit a couple of temples and shrines. Our guide was fantastic, and as we were the only two people booked on the tour we were able to customise it a bit, and we stopped off for tea and local Kyoto sweets to warm up during the tour.

Following the cycle tour we ventures south to he Fushiinari Shrine, or te shine of a thousand tori gates. It was jam packed with both tourists and locals as part of new year celebrations, but it was a pretty cool shine to visit and quite unique. From there it was onto another unique temple, this time to the Kinkakuji temple with the golden pavilion.

For the evening, we spend some time wandering around the Gion area, hoping to catch a glimpse of a geisha along the way. As the main school is currently closed for New Years we were told it would be difficult to see any this time, however luck was on our side and we were fortunate to see one geisha in full dress along the way.

It's now back on the Shinkansen, next stop Hakone.

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Posted by j0ne5y 02:31 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kobe

overcast 10 °C

Kobe turned out to be a much briefer stop than anticipated. As it was, we had only planned due to the Shinkansen availability to be there for an afternoon and evening, however due to the delays on the Shinkansen, we did not arrive until about 5.30 that afternoon, meaning most the activities we had looked at such as touring sake breweries or heading up the ropeway to mount Rokko were closed already.

However, the main attraction for coming to Kobe is the Kobe beef, so we soon set off in search of a restaurant where we could get genuine Kobe beef at a reasonable price. Courtesy of a blog I found searching (http://paulstravelpics.blogspot.com.au/2008/07/kobe-beef-in-kobe-step-by-step-photo.html), we went searching for Steak Land. After a brief wait outside to get in, we were seated at a table set around the teppan grill plate, where our chef could cook our food right in front of us.

The meal was superb: some soup to start; grilled vegetables and salad; and the main attraction of the beef. We opted for the "special Kobe beef sirloin", and were not disappointed. The meat was unbelievably tender, literally melted in your mouth and was delicious, though very rich due to the fat content, the 200g serving we had was more than enough. All this for about ¥55,000 (approx $65AUD), which when you consider I have paid well over $40 for just a steak back in some restaurants in oz, it really is quite reasonable, particularly when you consider the experience and not just the food you get to enjoy. Oishikata!

After dinner we headed down to the harbour for a look, and a ride in the Ferris wheel to see some of the city lights from above, trying to see as much as we could in the limited time we had in Kobe. The harbour area is quite cool, and would be fun to spend more time in the area during the day given the opportunity.

Regrettably that is all we had time for in Kobe, however at least we got to experience the main attraction of Kobe beef. I will definitely be back someday to explore more of Kobe, but for now, it's on to Kyoto for the next couple of nights.

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Posted by j0ne5y 01:01 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Kurashiki

sunny 7 °C

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Posted by j0ne5y 05:01 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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