Japan

Day 6 Tokyo: Tuesday 1 May

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Imperial Palace Gardens, Lunchbox at Marunouchi (丸ノ内でお弁当食べた)

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Tokyo Tower took photos from the main observatory 150m up. Some views from the observation tower.

 

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Looking down through a glass panel in the floor

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Day 7 Tokyo: Wednesday 2 May

Early start, woke up at 4 and in a taxi by 4:30. Headed to Tsukiji (築地). Tokyo’s famous fish market. Queued up for just over an hour to get into the Tuna auction. Very strict guidelines but well worth following for your own safety, as this is a very busy and chaotic working environment.

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Watched the traders give each fish a thorough inspection before choosing which fish to bid for. The auctioneer would ring a bell to inform the floor that bidding is about to begin and frantic bidding would then take place.

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Day 8 Tokyo: Thursday 3 May

We went to Shinjuku on the subway and train. Shinjuku station is the busiest in the world, combining 3 overland terminals and 3 connecting subway lines, 2 million commuters pass through every day. Raining heavily again but we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and went up to the Observatory on the 45th floor. Views not very clear due to heavy rain and low cloud.

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Went on JR train to Harajuku and walked to the Meijii Jingu shrine

Day 9 Tokyo (東京) to Kanazawa (金沢): Friday 4 May

Left hotel in Tokyo late morning and caught train to Tokyo station (東京駅). Bought tickets for train journey to Kanazawa (金沢). Got the bullet train/shinkansen (新幹線) to Maibara (米原) And then an express to Kanazawa. Arrived about 5 pm and caught bus to the Sky Hotel. Checked in and Tom went off to his place. He came back later and took us to an izakaya (居酒屋) for some yakitori/焼き鳥 (meat on a stick). We had a selection of dishes, which were all very tasty. There was a great atmosphere in there – very welcoming and busy.

Day 10 Kanazawa (金沢) Saturday 5 May

Weather was good today, dry and sunny. Tom and Mel went for a run about 9:30 whilst Les had shower and went to Starbucks. We walked through the Omicho fish market (大見長) and then onto Kanazawa Castle (金沢城). Lots going on there so busy but went into castle which was very interesting. No shoes allowed – the castle has been renovated as it would have been long ago. Went for lunch in town, passing through an area where Koinobori/Children’s day events were taking place. Then we walked to Kenroken Gardens (兼六園) – beautiful Japanese gardens – very peaceful despite lots of people. Lots of photo opportunities. Big pond with huge Coi carp, Kanazawa lanterns, plum trees, irises but not yet in bloom, large bonsai type trees, fountains, tea houses and more. Went back to hotel on bus and then to Tom’s via Starbucks at the station to try wifi again but no luck. Went to supermarket and Tom managed to get some ibuprofen for Les – his Japanese is amazing! Tom cooked spaghetti bolognese for us which was excellent then he went to watch football with friends and we caught the bus from the station back to the hotel.

Day 11 Kanazawa (金沢) Sunday 6 May

Thunder and lightning over night – very loud and bright. Raining in the morning so had leisurely start to the day. Waited in Starbucks for Tom to arrive. Weather brightened up and Tom arrived. Caught a bus to the 21st century Art Museum. Exhibition of ‘books which changed the world’ very interesting. Then we went to the D. T. Suzuki museum – Zen Buddhism – very peaceful place. Walked to the river (犀川) and over the bridge to walk alongside the river to the west tea district (西茶屋). Tea rooms were closed but we went into a museum where that used to be a geisha house. Walked back through town to our hotel. Tom went home to get ready to play futsal later in the evening. Mel and Les had a rest before going out to an Italian restaurant for a carbonara and pizza. Mel had a bowl of garlic soup too!

Day 12 Kanazawa (金沢) Monday 7 May

Got up and out for 10 am today and we walked up to the Oyama-jinja shrine (大山神社) and through the gardens. Dry, sunny and warm today so lovely to stroll around and very peaceful. Very few other people in the shrine. Another pond with Coi carp, Kanazawa lanterns, flowing water and a couple of cherry trees (桜) still in blossom. The japanese like to wear uniforms e.g. The lady sweeping the steps. The school children take pride in wearing their uniforms; a group of them in the gardens greeted us with ‘hello!’ and ‘good morning’. We walked back alongside the Castle gardens to Omicho Fish Market (fish, fruit and veg, sushi, clothes etc!) We had a coffee in the Kanazawa coffee shop, bought some fruit then sat by the crossroads in the sun waiting for a call from Tom. Mel took pictures of square cars! We walked through the subway crossing into the M’Za store; in the basement there is a food court with lots of stalls with beautifully presented food. Not sure what it all is but there was sushi, sweets, cakes and bento boxes (お弁当) (delicious lunch boxes with a variety of savoury items). Tom phoned so we went to meet him at the station about 1 pm. He took us to his favourite Japanese curry house, san kyu an, where we had chicken curry, rice, salad, pickled radish and silver skin onions! Very nice! Then we got on a bus through town and onto the Myoryuji Temple/Ninja Temple (忍者寺). Here we were given a guided tour in Japanese but we had our own individual English version in a book. We walked back towards our hotel and Tom left us to go and teach his students. Mel and Les went to Sukiya (すき家). A gyudon (牛丼) bar for some food – meat on rice with many optional toppings such as, cheese or egg – cheap but ok.

Day 13 Kanazawa (金沢) Tuesday 8 May

Mel and Les went for a run – Les only managed a slow 2 miles due to leg pain. Mel carried on for a few more miles around the town on his own. After showering we walked to the Samurai district (長町) of the town where we saw the traditional houses which are mostly now private houses. We went into a museum which was an original pharmacy house which had been moved to Kanazawa. We got on a bus to meet Tom at the station where we enquired about train times for tomorrow. Then we caught a bus to a ramen house called iwamotoya (岩本屋) in the same area as yesterday’s curry house. We had a very nice lunch of noodles, broth, pork and spring onions (ramen). Very filling. Then we caught a taxi to the east tea district (東茶屋). We went into a tea house and had tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cheese cake. We sat a while on the comfy sofas and chatted. We eventually left to make our way back to our hotel. Tom went home, Mel went to sleep and Les packed. Tom came to collect us at about 7:15 to go out for a meal with him and Shoko. Shoko took us in her car to a restaurant in Nishi-Kanazawa (西金沢) called Dohton Bori. We had another new experience, okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)- a kind of pancake with cabbage and optional ingredients such as meat and cheese which we cooked ourselves on a hot plate. When it was cooked we put some okonomiyaki sauce (お好み焼きソース) and mayonnaise on the top, cut it up into slices and ate it. It was delicious!

Day 14 Kanazawa (金沢) to Hiroshima (広島) Wednesday 9 May

Met Tom at Kanazawa station (金沢駅) at 9 am. Got some cash from the ATM, some pastries, bought the train tickets and caught the 9:53 to Shin-Osaka (新大阪駅). Changed train to the Shinkensen (新幹線) which took us to Hiroshima (広島).

Day 15 Hiroshima Thursday 10 May

We walked along the river again opposite the Peace Park to the tram stop (number 2). We took the tram to Miyajima-guchi and then the ferry across to Miyajima island. The Ohtorii Gate was covered in scaffolding unfortunately but there were many attractions including the expansive Itsukushimajinja shrine, the largest area of all the shrines in Japan. When the tide comes in the shrine apperas to br floating on water. We went for a walk up Mount Misen through the Momijidani Park which was beautiful up as far as the cable car which gives a view of the highest part of the mountain. Lovely weather for it too. Lots of Japanese tourists and school children due to the popularity of this place. Caught the ferry and tram back to the hotel, picked up the suitcases and took a taxi to the station. Caught the Shinkansen (新幹線) to Kobe. Got to hotel about 7 pm, checked in and then walked to the ‘Mosaic’ – a shopping and restaurant area on the harbour. Had a meal in a themed restaurant overlooking the water with views of Kobe Tower, the big wheel and the port – not sure of the theme but as usual the service and food were good.

 

Day 16 Kobe Friday May 11

Had breakfast in the hotel – included here for the first time. Mostly Japanese selection which we would usually have had later in the day. But there was fruit, cereal, fruit juice, coffee and yogurt so we went for our usual western style breakfast. We caught the Kobe loop bus and got a day ticket which meant we could hop on and off all day. The bus covers a circuit around Kobe stoping at 17 places of interest. Our first stop was at Nankin-machi Kobe’s China Town as recommended by Tom. Lots of tourists and school children again. Very vibrant area with lots of colourful street stalls and food places selling Chinese snacks – dim sum, grilled meat etc on sticks. We had a dumpling with pork inside which we had sampled in Hong Kong which was very nice. Back onto loop bus this time getting off at the Kitano Ijinkan-dori – the area of Kobe with western style houses. Narrow, steep streets with cafes, restaurants and shops mostly constructed after the 1995 earthquake. Then we walked up to the Shin-Kobe rope way and got on the cable car up to the Nunobiki Herb Park giving breathtaking views over Kobe harbour and surroundings. We walked back down to the mid station through the gardens, greenhouses, waterfalls, herb museum and kitchen garden. Many panoramic views along the way of Kobe. The weather was lovely too- warm, sunny, blue skies and clear. On one of the garden terraces we soaked our feet in a herbal foot spar whilst viewing the sights of Kobe. We were reluctant to take our feet out but we were relaxed and refreshed! We met many helpful and warm people today – when we stopped to look at our map we were asked several times if we needed guidance to get to where we wanted to go. We walked round to Shin- Kobe station and back onto the loop bus, past Kobe City Hall to Meriken Park. Here we explored the Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park. On January 17th 1995 a devastating earthquake struct the city and surrounding area and had a major impact on the people both items of lost lives and homes but also on the economy which the city has struggled to recover from. The city’s most striking architectural feature is the filigree roof of the Kobe Maritme Museum which is on the harbour. It is a swooping white framework symbolising waves and sails. We went into the museum but only had time to go around the Kawasaki exhibition – a showcase of all the innovative technological engineering developments by the Kawasaki. group on the land, sea and sky. We watched two videos about the development of the Shin- Kansen (bullet) train and ship building. Kawasaki don’t just make motor bikes! After this we walked around the Kobe Port Tower, back through the Harbour Land development, through the underpass under Kobe bus station and back to the hotel. There is a whole world underground in Japan’s cities – shops, restaurants, stalls. We didn’t emerge from Kobe’s until we got to the hotel and arrived in the lobby. Later we took a train from Kobe JR station to Sannomiya station to find the area with lots of restaurants specialising in selling Kobe beef. This is a local delicacy – expensive slices of beef heavily marbled with fat. A very kind man spotted us looking at our map and volunteered to take us to Kitano-zaka where these restaurants could be found. It was extremely lively and busy; many business men carrying briefcases – hardly any women except those encouraging the men into their establishments. None of them approached us as we assumed we were not their potential customers!

 

Day 17 Kobe to Osaka May 12

After breakfast we took a train from Kobe to Osaka and the subway to the Namba district to find our hotel. Again several helpful Japanese people who gave us directions to the hotel. We arrived and checked in and then went to explore the local area. Almost opposite the hotel is Dotombori-dori – a very busy, noisy and vibrant street with lots of cafés, noodle and takoyaki bars and shops. After walking some way along this street we turned into a shopping street with a sea of shoppers as far as you could see – Shinsaibashi Shopping Street. We chose to walk along the Donombori river side instead! Then we turned back towards Ebisubashi Shopping Street – another people filled avenue. We went along with the crowds towards the electrical goods shopping street in Den Den Town. Enough of shopping streets – back to the hotel for recovery! On the way we popped into the Kuromon Market – another fish market also selling various other foods and goods.

 

Day 18 Osaka Sunday 13 May

Osaka

 

Day 19 Osaka Sunday 14 May

Osaka

Day 20 Osaka to Heathrow via Hong Kong Monday 14 May

Farewell Asia!

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