Wow, what an amazing trip. The time we had in Japan was awesome, the people were polite & helpful, the country is so clean and immaculately organised, the food and eating is delightful, the scenery breath taking – temples and shrines, skylines, buildings and streetscenes, Disney, Harajuku girls. Oh, and the shopping seems endless.
While lengthier than most of my posts, this one will be a reasonably brief overview of the trip. I’ll be able to add more detail in later posts, along with a heap of image galleries – there are a whole load of pictures to sort through first though.
We spent time in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto, and each place had its own special appeal to us.
We initially stopped over in Tokyo for a few days and having got our bearings, started using the railway, finding plenty of food to eat and exploring Shibuya shopping district. We also spent a full day at Tokyo Disney, deciding to go there on a weekday rather than a weekend (not that it really seemed to matter – lots of queues were 160+ minutes of waiting).
After Tokyo, we caught the Shinkansen superexpress down to Hiroshima. This was to begin more of a sightseeing part of our holiday, with most days to be spent out and about amongst the sights, rather than the shops.
The next day we visited the Peace Memorial Museum and Park, and the A-Bomb Dome. Harrowing, overwhelming, disturbing, almost depressing. The stories and detail held in the Museum were all this and more. The walk in the park was more relaxing after the sombre visit to the Museum. Hiroshima’s A-Bomb Dome is a haunting building, standing in the state it was left on that devastating day in August, 1945. It is an amazing testament to Hiroshima that the city has been rebuilt into what it is today.
Miyajima Island, by great contrast is tranquil, peaceful, calming – serene. We could easily have spent a week here, rather than just a day.
On the way to Kyoto, we stopped at Himeji Castle. Due to the Sakura, blossoms, the place was packed. It was fantastic though to be able to see the castle, its moats, keeps, towers and buildings, left the way it was made, centuries ago. A big thanks to Matthew for the advice to spend more time at Hiroshima, to head to Miyajima and Himeji Castle. Definately worth while!
Kyoto was phenomenal! Great heritage, great scenery, great fun! We spent two full days visiting and exploring Kinkakuji – the Golden Pavilion, Ryogen-in Temple and it’s Zen garden, Ginkakuji – the Silver Pavilion and on and around the Philosophers Path. Stunning, capitivating imagery, gardens, blossoms. And we got to cook our own japanese pancakes!
On the last day, we hired bikes and rode around Kyoto. Awesome! The bikes were pretty much a comfort/commuter style, 8speed internally geared hub for Wifey, 3speed for me. My only gripe with the whole setup was the seat was too wide and too padded for what I was used to.
Cycling is commonplace in Japan. Everyone seems to cycle. Old ladies, women in heels on the way to work, men in suits, kids, hipsters. Everyone. Most of the footpaths are there to be cycled on, but even on the roads, the traffic we saw and experienced was very patient, always giving way to cyclists. Cycling by far was the most fun, fastest way to get around Kyoto. Highly recommended, and again I wish we had hired the bikes from the first day, instead of the last.
Our return to Tokyo had a much more touristic feel than the first visit, but also had a lot more shopping! We spent an afternoon around Harajuku, checking out a lot of shops, trying on clothes and shoes (don’t think about buying shoes in Japan if you have big feet!), just wandering around. As evening came, we got to check out some of the crazy and extreme dressing, fashion and makeup. Nearly everyone was a pleasure to photograph there!
We also visited Akiharbara – the electronics district and Ginza, the higher end shopping district. Our visit to Shinjuku to check out the skyscrapers and the view from the observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building was spoilt by the weather. A rapid elevator trip took us up to the deck, but the stormy cloud coverage meant that we couldn’t even see the north tower of the very same building, let alone any other buildings out there. The Imperial palace was a great way to relax a little enjoying the gardens, blossoms and scenery in a break from the metropolis.
By the time the last day rolled around, we pretty much felt like it was time to head home. We had had 7 days in Tokyo, 3 in Hiroshima and 3 in Kyoto. I really liked having the split time in Tokyo, however we could have probably cut 1-2 days from it. Miyajima Island and Kyoto were two places that I would spend more time in. The next time we go back, I would love to experience a lot more of the country side, perhaps take the bikes and explore and experience the mountains and the country.
As I get more of the photos processed and uploaded into galleries, I’ll add posts letting you all know.
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