A Travellerspoint blog


sunny 7 °C

Kurashiki, a short train ride from Okoyama back on the main island of Honshū, was the next stop on the agenda. A relative back-water of Japan being a village of approximately 400k, it is a quaint little place where the Bikan historical quarter continues to give modernity the cold shoulder. The dichotomy between Kurashiki and the hustle of Tokyo or Osaka is immediately apparent, though no less enjoyable.

Bikan is made up of narrow streets of old style merchant shops, selling a lot of local pottery or local other handcrafts, sweets and also jeans, which apparently Kurashiki is where they first started making Japanese jeans! It was really pleasant wandering around these old streets and popping in and out of old shops, where the shopkeepers are really friendly (even more so than what is the norm in Japan).

After shopping old school style, we decided to try out the local department store, as my feet were yearning for some new shoes. I found a couple of pairs I liked and asked to try them on, however struck a bit of a roadblock when the shop keeper explained that they only stocked ladies shoes up to size 7.5, so my size 10 feet were out of luck on getting kitted out in some new gear. Bugger.

The next morning we went back into Bikan to grab some shopping (chopsticks and some local pottery), before making our way back to Okoyama to get the Shinkansen to Kobe. We were hopeful of having some time at Okoyama to put our bags into a locker and have a brief peek at the city whilst waiting for our train, however upon arrival to Okoyama we were greeted with the rare chaos of major delays on the Shinkansen lines due to an early morning fire at a station in Tokyo, that had virtually paralysed the network for several hours. Fortunately trains were now back up and running, however it meant we were unable to find free baggage lockers or stray too far as we needed to keep an eye on what was happening with our train. After a delay of about 45 mins we were back in action, and headed for Kobe.

Posted by j0ne5y 22:36 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


sunny 12 °C

Heading south west on the Shinkansen, we ventured off of Honshū and onto the island of Kyushu, arriving at Fukuoka for a brief stop. The main attraction for heading to Fukuoka was that the guidebook indicated it was one of the best places to eat in Japan, with lantern lit Yatai carts popping up along the river at night.

For the afternoon we wandered around different parts of the city, exploring a couple of temples, including the oldest zen Buddhist temple in Japan founded by the guy who also introduced tea to Japan, then down to Oharu Park to check out the castle ruins. Despite being mid-winter the park grounds were quite nice, however would be spectacular in either spring or autumn with the colors of blossoms or leaves respectively.

We then thought we might explore the shopping district of Tenjin, however as it was New Year's Day pretty much everything was closed, so no luck on making some impulse purchases that afternoon. The discovery of the day though was the Beard Papa's, a little bakery that does custard filled cream puffs, which are competing with Momiji cakes to bemy new favourite desert.

As there was not much else left to explore and our legs were still feeling the stairs of Miyajima, we chilled at the hotel for a bit before heading out to find the Yatai carts after sunset. I am not sure whether New Years impacted, but there were only a handful of carts set up on the river, which I thought there may have been more given the attention they are given in guidebooks. Irrespective, it was an experience worth trying. Around the carts, temporary walls/doors/tarp curtains are assembled and little stools set up for you to sit at around the cart. You need to almost poke your head into each one to see what they serve at their respective carts, which is generally ramen (local version is famous for pork); grilled meats; tempura; or udon. As we were not very hungry, we went for a grilled meat and tempura cart. The tempura ebi (prawn) was excellent, but the grilled chicken was not so much.

After dinner, we wandered around for a bit trying to find a bar where we could have a drink (I was in the mood for a whisky), but failed to find anything open that wasn't a seedy men's club, so we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Whilst Fukuoka was probably a little underwhelming given my high hopes based on the guidebook, it would be premature to write this place off as not worth visiting as we were here on New Year's Day which is not only a national holiday but also an important date in the Japanese culture, so we did not get to see the city in full swing. Definitely worth another visit should the opportunity arise.

Posted by j0ne5y 03:05 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Miyajima Island and Hiroshima

sunny 10 °C

After the Shinkansen ride to Hiroshima, we swapped onto the train and then ferry over to Miyajima Island, a UNESCO world heritage listed site set on the Seto Inland Sea. The island is a quaint village set around the Itsukushima Shrine and Mount Misen.

We spent the afternoon exploring the village, and trying not to drool over and stuff ourselves full with many oyster stalls and shops offering freshly baked Momiji cakes (maple leaf shaped cakes filled with a variety of flavourings, with custard being my favourite over green tea, chocolate or cream cheese) as dinner was supplied at our hotel that evening. We watched the sunset and incoming tide down on the beach overlooking the famous floating Otori Gate at the Shrine.

After sunset we headed to the hotel, a traditional Japanese Ryokan, where we would stay for the next two nights, sleeping on traditional futon beds on a tatami may floor,which were set up after we had eaten our Keiseki dinner of local produce served in the room. And what a feast it was. The first night was primarily oysters (fried and grilled in a hotpot at our table) but also sashimi; miso soup; some praws; a snail; oysters in a custard; and rice; followed by some custard for desert. It was sensational, or Oishikata as they say here.

The next morning we made our way back over to Hiroshima and did a quick walk around the castle, the A-Bomb Dome and the Peace Park. As it was New Year's Eve the museums and castle was closed to go inside, so we headed back on a boat direct from Hiroshima to Miyajima. We had a lunch of okonomiyaki (Hiroshima style) before setting off for Mount Misen. We took the ropeway that takes you about 3/4 of the way up the mountain, and then walked the remaining distance to the summit, which was about 20 mins and countless steps to get up there. However, despite it being a bit hazy, the views were spectacular as the sun was setting and worth the effort. However having now made it to the top, it was time to head back down, which we decide to take an alternate route to the ropeway we had come up on, and walk back down. Essentially, this was 3km of going down stairs, so needless to say by the end of it our legs were feeling it a bit.

We arrived back in town just on time to witness the Chinka-sai festival, which is a festival of lighting massive pine torches carried on the shoulders of about 10 men/boys as a ritual to guard against fires breaking out. Families also light smaller torches as a new year good fortune ritual. As far as New Years Eve's go, pretty hard to beat an experience like this.

Heading back to the hotel wearily and anticipating the second night we would be served the second local delicacy of eel (eeek!), we were a little apprehensive about dinner on night two. However, we had nothing to fear, and were served up an even bigger feast of sushi; sashimi; fugu (the poisonous puffer fish that can kill you if prepared incorrectly, which obviously this one was ok as I'm not dead yet writing this); something I think may have been abalone or some other type of clam type thing; oysters three different ways (mornay, with miso paste, and then in a soup hotpot); a special bowl of Soba noodles because it was New Year's Eve; and custard to finish again. Wow! We both could barely move afterwards, both from the food we had eaten but also because out legs were dead after walking and hiking throughout the day.

We crashed not long after dinner, and rose at sunrise to head down to the Shrine hoping for some cool photos of the Otori gate on sunrise. Whilst the sunrise didn't cooperate, we got the opportunity of going trough the shrine and picking up some new year charms and fortunes for ourselves, however need to wait until we see Yuka again on Saturday to translate what our fortune says!

Posted by j0ne5y 02:25 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Miyajima Island

sunny 10 °C






Posted by j0ne5y 00:02 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Ninjas, Buddha and Osaka city lights

semi-overcast 6 °C





Posted by j0ne5y 02:16 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

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