A Travellerspoint blog

Day 16- bus tour and typhoon Trami ruins it all

Typhoons are taken very seriously

storm 18 °C
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So news has it that Typhoon Trami is heading straight for us, and in fact, most of Japan! Given the devastation from the last one, not so long ago, the floods and the recent earthquake it was everywhere on the news.

I had booked our only bus tour. The boys weren’t impressed, but I assured them it would be a quick 9 hours!
We headed to another hotel as the meeting point at 7am! We arrived, sat down, and were politely informed it was cancelled due to Trami. Two relieved boys and we slowly walked home. I really wanted to see the Golden Pavilion, or xxxxx

Off we went, with the promise to Jack that is was only one temple, and then he could return to the hotel. We noticed so many stores temple did not disappoint. It was picture perfect, with a gorgeous reflection in the pond. I was in love. It is actually coated in gold from Kanazawa, the place we visited last week. Kanazawa produces 99% of the gold leaf in Japan.
I got my gorgeous calligraphied stamp again, and off we went. We decided to wander the markets again. But many shops were closed. They were closing too.
Lunch of gyoza and sake, and receiving an emergency text entirely in Japanese!
Word was that we needed to be back in our room by around 12.....and to make sure we had water, food and snacks to get us though the night. Off to Family Mart ( like 7/11 and everywhere) for onigiri and chocolate and chips, and water! It was quite eery in that the streets were slowly becoming less traversed, less tourists, less locals.

Well, nothing really happened. We had a lot of rain and a bit of wind. To be honest, it was nothing like the storms we get at home. But, everyone was safe, and we were pleased that we were safe, along with the rest of Japan.

Typhoon Trami had not wreaked havoc on this beautiful country.

Posted by Jochester71 16:24 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Sat Day 15- Bento, bento and Maiko

Oh to be a geiko!

storm 18 °C
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Poor Jack was exhausted as my travel plans are usually quite rigorous, with no room for rest! We decided that we would meet Moe Monday again, rather than today, and just have a restful day. I think after 2 weeks from walking an average of around 10kms per day has taken its toll on him! We were tired too, and maybe a little hungover from last night!

We decided to head to the Nishiki market area to explore. It is a huge area, with a covered over roof down little streets or alleys so long, you can’t see the ends! Jack also wanted a bento box so when we get home I can make him ramen, onigiri and sushi for his school lunches! I had found a store so off we went! Mick zoned out after about 2 minutes, so he wandered off and we tried to limit Jacks choices to around 10. They were his favourites. He wanted something traditional. I explained that lacquerware wasn’t really school friendly, nor was it cheap. He didn’t agree.
He pointed at every lacquered bento in the store. Of course he needed matching chopsticks also.........after about 20 minutes we had decided. His is white! Go figure! Mine however has a gorgeous Japanese design on the top! I better research bento boxes now for recipe ideas!
They even put a plastic bag over your paper bag due to rain, to protect it! Geez Japan, I truly love your thoughtful ideas!
I also went to McDonalds to have a limited edition sweet potato thickshake, as requested by a Japanese friend of mine! It was sweeter than I had thought it would be. Here, sweet potato is a popular flavour. It’s in ice cream, sweets, tempura, everything!!
We meandered through laneways, busted past tourists, ate some delicacies, and headed for a restaurant for lunch! Sushi acquired. A happy Jo! Washed down with matcha beer! Mick chose the sensible beer with ramen!
Time to head home for a rest. It was raining, and we were in need of a rest before our evening tonight with a meiko.

We walked to the restaurant, which luckily wasn’t too far, and headed upstairs. There were only 6 tables of people, with some only seating two, so it was quite intimate. The meal was kaiseki ( like a set meal with lots of little dishes coming out!) It was superb. Of course my favourite was the sashimi. More so because Jack won’t eat it so I get two lots!

The meiko performed a dance and then came to each table to converse, and have photos. She was 18, having started her training a few years earlier. Her hair is hers ( geiko generally wear wigs!) and is done once a week, and so she sleeps on a small padded pillow block, so as not to ruin her hair. Her kimono is around 10kgs!

She was beautiful.

We played games- Jack did one game, and me the other!

Posted by Jochester71 15:51 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 13- Hiroshima, Miyajima and arriving into Kyoto

Be careful of your kanji tattoos!

sunny 22 °C
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I woke at 4am, excited to go do some photography of Peace Park. It is lovely during the day, it even better early, no tourists!
I grabbed a cab to the A Dome. It was magnificent! A reflection in the river excited me, and I walked down the steps. I’d seen a picture which clearly meant be careful of slippery steps. I got this! Heading down and some steps towards the bottom for dark brown. All good. Yup! All good until I stepped on one, slipped, had my camera and tripod to hold, fell down three steps and was black on my legs and backside! Wtf! I’d just washed my clothes last night! I gathered myself, no one was going to help me, there wasn’t anyone around, and decided to tie my waterproof coat around my waist to hide my cold and wet butt!!
As I approached the Children’s Memorial, an old man walked up, bowed, clasped his hands in silent prayer, and kept walking through the park. He was clearly st an age where he could have been here on that fateful day. Did he lose his child or children? Was it his siblings he lost? I started crying silent tears again. Wondering about his story, the pain he feels everyday. Does he come here every morning to silently pay his respects in the dark where no one sees him ( except some rogue Australian girl!) Thoughts of him consumed me for ages........
I can’t convery the beauty and awe inspiring solitude and sadness I felt here.
The school children’s memorial was also a tear jerker. Thousands and thousands of cranes hanging around the memorial. Yes, eyes still swelling silently and quietly. Yesterday I had read the stories, seen the clothing and watched videos of the school children that didn’t go home to their parents that day.
One video of a survivor spoke of being in his classroom. When he woke, after the bomb, he had been thrown between two desks, and thinks that actually saved him. When he came to, he could hear children singing the school anthem. He joined in. There were about 10 children singing as loud as they could. He thought that way, someone would hear them and come and rescue them. He said he sang as loud and proud as he could. Until he was the only one signing. One by one, the voices had stopped. He said it was the only time in his life he has truly been scared. ?

I again walked past the A Dome. A moment of quiet reflection. How blessed am I to be able to stand here. Free of the terror of war. Free of debilitating memories and physical scars from wounds of war. Hiroshima is a city that teaches peace for the world. In fact, it doesn’t teach peace. It doesn’t want to talk about peace. It stands for peace. It looks into a peaceful future, free of hatred, war and the resulting horrors.
If you do anything today, spend a moment please, in silent thoughts for those that never saw their families again after 8.15am on 6 August 1945.

I made it to the hotel, boys were still asleep, hand washed my clothes and headed for the laundry to dry them! Joy!!

We packed and were headed for a full day tour with Keiko, a local guide who I had booked for the day. We planned Miyajima ( island) and some lovely Japanese gardens.
Keiko’s English was outstanding, and it was clear right away we would be having a great day!
In the train on the way to catch the ferry Keiko told us she had recently seen a big, muscly tattoo covered tourist. She noticed he had a Japanese tattoo on the top of his arm. She said it was so funny, as the tattoo said “washing machine” in Japanese kanji ?????‍♀️ There’s regret and then there is regert hahaha
We arrived to the ferry on a beautiful sunny day. The weather was perfect. I knew that to arrive on Miyajima we were to arrive around the same time as high tide.
The famous Tori gate on Miyajima is in the water at high tide (seemingly floating) and is on dry land at low tide. I desperately wanted to photograph it at high tide! The travel spirits ( or more particularly my exceptionally obsessive compulsive travel planning) had resulted in a near perfect result!
We are greeted on the island by wild deer. I say wild, but they’re tame, as they are used to tourists everywhere! Jack was enamoured and wanted to just stay and cuddle them.
We slowly walked through the Omotesando Shopping Arcade and headed for the Itsukushima Shrine. It was first built in 593, then rebuilt by Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1168! It is truly a sight to behold. So tranquil. So beautiful. Jack has totally learnt the way to cleanse before entering, the Shinto way. He takes great pride in paying his respects properly. He does not disappoint!
I take a thousand photos......almost literally, and we slowly meander up to the Daisho-in Temple. You walk up a path of steps. In the middle are round gold coloured scriptures, or readings. As you walk, you spin them with your hands, and this means you’ve read it. The idea was that you span them as you approached, so you gained knowledge. ( on the way down, Mick remarked it was the most reading he’d done in ages hahaha)
We commenced to uphill walk to the Mt Misen cable car and lookout. The walk was beautiful, the trees, the rivers or streams, the bridges, the puffing! It was a great relief to see the cable car station and drink some water! Keiko didn’t break stride! It was as if she was on a leisurely stroll! She has done it many times and with the amount of walking we have done daily in Japan, it is no wonder they were all petite and fit! The Japanese say you only eat to 80% capacity. I believe it. They also serve dishes on small plates or in small bowls, much less than our huge plates and bowls at home!
The cable car ride was gorgeous, except I started with closing my eyes ( my fear of heights!) but with Jack constantly saying......” Woah! Mum, I wouldn’t look down if I were you. If this broke and we fell........” bless him for his undivided support and encouragement!
The view at the top was nothing short of spectacular. We sat quietly and ate our onigiri ( totally living off this when I get home!) and Keiko taught Jack how to make an origami shuriken, a Ninja throwing star! He loved it! She said her children used to make them and play with them, pretending to be ninja so she estimates she’s made over 1000 so far! A treasure he will keep!
From here you can walk a further walk. We didn’t do the walk to the top (40 minutes or so down a gully, and up the other side, and return!) but I would loved to have visited Misenhondo Hall. It is here that Kiezu no Hi (the eternal flame), the holy fire which Kobo Daishi used as part of his religious training is burning even now after about 1200 years in Reikado Hall.
It is said that the holy water boiled by this fire works for all sort of disease. It was also used as the pilot light for the “Flame of Peace” of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Imagine a flame burning for 1200 years!
The cable car down was more pleasant and the views, indescribable. I was also pleasantly happy with the downward walk, especially seeing the bright red faces of those still walking up!
Next we visited the five storey pagoda. Such strong beauty with such history. It really highlights that Australia is so young in terms of buildings.
Now it was time for lunch. Mick was desperate to try a Hiroshima specialty- okonomiyaki. It is traditionally made with egg first, then cabbage, pork, bean sprouts, and cooked on a huge hot plate ( in front of you!) like a big pancake. It did not disappoint! It was healthy and ever so delicious! I might need to learn to do this too! We were enjoying Miyajima so much, we decided to stay for the rest of the time we had. I needed to buy sake ( Hiroshima is famous for its sake for the pure water that falls here) and of course Obama had had sake here, so of course I needed that one too!
I bought a kokeshi doll here too!
B56C195E-D219-4564-90DE-C260717B0E51.jpeg8F9D0AE8-5D5E-41C1-92BA-94CCCBE65802.jpeg241BCE40-5552-44FB-808F-74E89852F339.jpeg298B81FA-3741-4CBB-A0E6-9EA7D8CD4C9A.jpegD5CF3D26-3DF8-4BB7-80AB-20E25D1425D2.jpeg76E42787-DFA2-4E74-8E11-3E86F029E7FE.jpegE22DBF6D-B65F-4CBA-9C6D-97779231AA91.jpegUnfortunately it was time to ferry back and start the train trip to Kyoto, our last city to visit on our trip.
We bid Keiko farewell. A truly fantastic guide and gorgeous lady! We loved our time with her.
We arrived in Kyoto around 8pm, checked in and went for a quick walk around Gion, the old area we were staying in.

I was super excited to see a Maiko making her way home! I then saw two more in a cab. Strange sight, and strange that I was so excited!! They mesmerise me!

We arrived back and I was so excited to see the toilet had blue disco lights! You could write a book about the virtues of Japanese toilets....in fact I’m sure someone has already! Our toilets are so 1950! The hotel also has a laundry room. Not as exciting as finding a little bar to drink st whilst it washes and dries, but a welcome benefit all the same!

Then, it was time for slumber and dreams of an exotic country, so brave, so beautiful, so charming and so alluring. I’m possibly in love with the land of the rising sun.

Posted by Jochester71 03:56 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 12- a bullet ( train) to Hiroshima

Will my eyes stop leaking?

semi-overcast 24 °C
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So an early start for our shinkansen ( bullet train) to Hiroshima.
The scenery on the train is absolute stunning. I never realised just how hilly or mountainous Japan was, and apparently 70 % of it is mountains, so they clearly live in just 30% of the islands! Beautiful colour of the rivers, the infrastructure is beyond belief. The roads, as I’ve said before, and the trains, go through massively long tunnels straight through the mountains. No up and down roads here! The trains go so fast your ears pop!

We eventually after 5 hours, and two train transfers ( yes, successfully navigated two new stations! High five right there!!) to arrive in Hiroshima. I had booked the Hotel Granvia, which is right beside the station, and best location! Close to everything and especially the hop on hop off bus, which we discovered is free with our JR Pass! Bonus!
We drop our bags, check in and hit the ground running! I swear every Australian school is here on their trips st the moment! We must have seen 10 groups, then more and more as you wander around.
We headed for the Atomic Bomb Dome, a building that was almost directly underneath the bomb.

At 8:15am on 6th August 1945, the first atomic bomb in human history was dropped on Hiroshima. Although, the Atomic Bomb Dome was located almost directly underneath the explosion, it somehow avoided complete destruction and the remains of the building still stand today. The residents of Hiroshima decided to keep this tragic reminder of war intact. The site was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996.
What a moving site it is. I knew I was going to be moved to tears in Hiroshima, having studied it a fair bit ( how could anyone not know what happened) but seeing it, you can’t stop thinking of the exact moment in time in excess of 140,000 people died, either instantly, or within the next few days, weeks and months, and of course years.
We headed for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Judy had to,d me to brace myself. Thanks for the warning, but it did nothing to abate my tears. I couldn’t even speak, for fear of omitting an audible cry.
It is well presented, showing both the history of the development of atomic bombs, right through to a map that shows what countries have atomic bombs, and how many. I was pleased to see Australia has none. The UK, India and several other countries have some, but the US and Russia have in excess of 700 whole world could be vaporised in moments. It really surprised me that there are so many, knowing they ought never ever be used ever again.
The museum was so moving for me, that I couldn’t possibly take photos. It just seemed far to disrespectful and I was physically unable to talk, hardly able to breathe let alone record it with my camera. There is a large round screen that is flat, and It shows all the houses, etc.....then it shows like a movie the bomb being dropped and the area affected, and the aftermath. Thousands of homes, people, infrastructure, trees, hospitals, schools full of children, just vanished. In a split second. Devastating. A moment, at 8.15am, with no warning, where people were doing their everyday morning routines. The fact that so many of those survivors are still alive today to tell their stories is a part of history that must be remembered.
The museum has videos, interviews with survivors who tell where they were that morning, the pain, devastation and survival. Poor Jack was hugging me and telling me it was ok, he was crying, I was crying. I accept that the world was at war, and won’t go into the details of that, but to see the utter devastation these weapons caused, not only to Hiroshima but to Nagasaki is indescribable.

There are items of clothing on display. A watch, stopped at 8.15. A shoe. A shadow on a step where someone literally vanished into thin air. Paper cranes ( an origami crane, to signify peace) folded from tiny paper by Sadako, a young girl who later developed leukaemia, and thought if she folded 1000 cranes, she’d be cured and live. She didn’t. I couldn’t even see them properly through my eyes, overflowing with sadness. I ams struggling to even write this, 3 days after the event! The whole museum is very much an education on why the people of Hiroshima rebuilt their home, and their absolute belief and proposals for abolition of nuclear weapons, and the possibility and wish for world peace. Devastation of the bomb, they don’t look back, only forward to ensure it never happens again.

We leave, and I leave a piece of my heart there too. The silent looks to each person you walk or step past, the guards st the door who must see the red swollen eyes of those who walk out. I was still holding my breathe, just to make it out silently. Soaked tissues in my hands. A son who gained knowledge of a terrible event he was lucky to never see, sad for the lost children. A sobering place indeed.

We walked out and into Peace Park. A beautifully manicured area, that once was filled with homes and shops. Dedicated to the victims, and turned into s memorial park, with memorials dotted around the area.

We next visited the Peace Memorial Hall. A 360* cityscape around the walls is made of 140,000 tiles, the number of deaths, to show what it looked like immediately after the drop. There is a photo montage that changes, showing pictures of those who died, and an electronic scroll of names of the deceased. Very moving indeed.

The Cenotaph and eternal flame peace pond were next. Flowers everywhere, left by loved ones.
The family memorial, showing the families lost.

I needed a break, and off to the hotel we went. Jack was exhausted and I had a headache ( from trying to hold my breath no doubt!)

Laundry time! Strangely, this is a part that Mick and I look forward to, not only for the clean clothes, it it’s an adventure finding a coin laundry to start with, and after our last laundry/ bar experience we were hopeful of finding an isikaya near by to again have a few beers whilst the clothes went round and round.
We were not disappointed! Bingo again! As we entered the tiny bar, beers ordered, and we realised the tv was showing the local baseball team, the Carps in a game! We didn’t realise st the time it was the grand final! And they won! Seriously, Hiroshima was a sea of red Carp shirts, scarves, dogs dressed in Carp outfits! They seriously take their baseball seriously in Japan! Again, the Baros eras spoke to English, again we managed to laugh, and we all ended up cheering the Carps! They more than us!

They had a whole wall of shelves, and it contained many bottles of sake. Each bottle had a name on it. Here, you buy the bottle, and just drink from it when you visit! Thought maybe I should buy one, to ensure my return to this beautiful country!

After some dinner, an emotional day draws to an end.

Posted by Jochester71 17:32 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Day 11- Takayama, old districts and shrines

I love a rainy night and a closed door at 4am!

rain 17 °C
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Given the tourist hotspot of the old town was crazy busy yesterday ( see below)
I decided I’d get up at the spritely time of 4am to go do a photo shoot! Up, having pre packed my bag and tripod the night before, dressing in the dark so I didn’t wake the boys, sneaking out.........get to the bottom, and on with the shoes off with the slippers! It’s raining, and I’ve not packed my coat, oh well, adds to the scenery! Walk up to the door.........it remains closed. Step back, as you know, those sensors sometimes miss me as I’m such a whippet of a thing..........forward again. Nothing. Put hand on door ( a lot here are automatic but you have to touch them to make them open!). Nada. Nothing. No one is awake or around. I try to pry them open, with no luck!! I’m bloody stuck inside with no way of getting.......just.......outside. The light is just coming up, bugger. Defeated, off with shoes and on with the slippers. I give the door one more look, thinking maybe it might open telepathically! It doesn’t. Up I go again.
The upside of my delayed start meant I sat and did two days of the blog, as I had fallen behind! Sorry to those of you that had expected to wake to a new day of travelling Japan! But, I managed to get up to date! ( if you’re reading this, I actually did 4 blogs updates yesterday, so if you go to the blog, click on the right hand side on “ table of contents” it will show them all, and you can click the ones you missed ( if any).
6am and it’s photography walk take 2. It opens, Alle-bloody- lujah! There is something so centring about being out and about, exploring, paying close attention to the smallest details, and largely being alone, that I just cherish. (Renee, the pics of the flowers are especially for you, and I was thinking of having you beside me with your camera whilst taking them! The horridly busy streets of yesterday were eerily deserted, except for the occasional local walking their dog, or riding their bicycle to wherever they’re going. Everyone you pass says “ohayo guzai masu” (very good morning) . Have I to,d you just how polite everyone is? I really can’t convey how refreshing it is. Smiling st people you pass. No matter how busy the street. They smile back ( or at you st first instance) . If you offer to let someone in front of you, or signal for them to go first, it is met with almost an argument saying, no, thank you ver y much for your politeness, but you go first, please as my pleasure.

So. Damn. nice.
So. Damn. Polite.
I’m so. In. Love.

Truly, it is such a shock sometimes, that I nearly cry. It really blows me away the level of respect for everyone. Their respect for the rules. No ifs, buts or maybes. The rules are the rules. If you are seated in seat 3B, that is where you sit. Even if the seat isn’t the window seat, and the window seat is empty. They won’t move. They’ve got a seat. Why would you dream of moving? Refreshing.

Anyway, enough of my melancholy ranting, here is the old town of Takayama in all its morning glory. So cute. So old. The smell of the wood of the buildings, the pine needles from the many trees and the fresh smell of rain is alluring and romantic.

I have this thing I do often when traveling. I close my eyes. Concentrate on my senses- what I hear, what I smell, and open my eyes to take a mental snapshot of that very moment in time. Just for me. Just for when I need it. Many of my travel memories come to me when I need them most. Like s protective and warming blanket, they remind me of how much pleasure I have had whilst travelling the world with Mick and Jack.

Anyhow, here........you see the magic here

The famous red bridge is Nakabashi Bridge!

I returned to the room, to see this, two sleeping beauties!

I had planned a guide for today again, to make the most of our time. My blister on my foot from day 1 is still going strong on day 11! I actually think I’ve lost weight here, which is a pleasant change. You eat, but you walk miles everyday! We fed Jack his new usual breakfast of onigiri, which is a triangle block of rice, wrapped in seaweed with something inside. His fave is the tuna mayo. Mine is the pickled plum! Yum!

We met Taka at 9am and off we went to see the riverside markets Miyagawa morning markets. It is on the north side of a river, and historically the samurai lived on the north side, and on weekends the merchants who lived on the other side could come over to sell their wares. Next we walked to an old original samurai house, Yoshijima Heritage House. Even though we had seen one in Kanazawa, they are all different, and just as beautiful. We wander through the tatami rooms. The ceiling is two floors high, all of dark wood, with huge wooden beams. It is no wonder it is still standing after so many years.
Next we go to the Takayama Matsuri Yatango Kaikan. It is a building that houses 4 of the 12 floats for their annual parade. The floats all date from the 17th century and are mostly carved in wood, with some metal. They are absolutely magical. The detail is sublime, and the colours alluringly dainty!
Twice a year there are street parades with the floats. They are so tall, they are housed in special thick walled warehouses to protect them. The 4 we saw are housed in a special room at the base of the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine. Some of the floats have marionettes on them, that are controlled by someone whilst they are pulled down the streets. Originally, it took 80 men to pull each float! They are truly remarkable.

Next we walked up a thousand steps, ok , not that many, to the oldest Shrine in Japan- at a mere 1700 years old! The Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine was first built in 413 and enlarged to its current state in 1683. It was stunning and seemed more tranquil due to being surrounded by huge cypress and pine trees. A magical spot!

We walked down through the old town again, and bustling with tourists to find a restaurant for lunch!

We took the Higashiyama walking. Purse, through hills where there are dozens of shrines and temples. The detail is amazing. The buildings are very well preserved. Jack has the Shinto sign of respect perfected - bow twice, clap twice, and bow again as you retreat. He loves all the history, and really is an old soul!

We headed to the Takayama Jinya building, it was an old Government building during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and was actually used until 1968! Can you believe it! It is perfectly preserved and is huge! It is the only one that remains from this time! Incredible!
Walking in, we see two men on ladders trimming the pine trees. Here, all the trees, no matter how huge, look like bonsai. We discovered that they actually hand cut every tree in town ( except the trees on the hills!) with basically scissors. Wtf? They really are beautiful but photos don’t do them justice!

We bid farewell to Taka, and headed for a rest ( for Jack that means iPad!) and waited for our dinner in our room. Tonight we were having kaiseki meal- lots of little dishes served up! Oh my. It was absolutely delicious. That took our minds off the fact that our legs kept going to sleep ( we aren’t used to sitting on the floor!) Jack insists on sitting the traditional way , on his knees and feet, it we almost die doing this! Haha

And just like that, we are ready for bed!!

Posted by Jochester71 15:08 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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