And relax….

We arrived in the beach side Ito around 4pm and headed straight for the hostel. This was a 100 year old traditional ryoken with its own onsen in the basement. After sorting ourselves out, and a spot of dinner, we headed out to the dream festival that was going on. More stands with drink, food and games. An awesome double act on stage, a female singing and male guitarist. The fireworks started and they carried on playing. It was nice to have both at the same time. A late night onsen and bed called.

In the morning I grabbed another long onsen, then we headed to the beach. Checking the sculptures out along the front. The beach was a black sand that was burning to the touch.

After the nice relaxing night and morning it was time to get our last trains on our pass, which meant last bento too.

Back to where it all began, Kurimae in Tokyo. Welcomed back by the people in the hostel we settled in. Dinner that night we headed to a place that had a giant cow on the side, taken up an elevator and sat down and only then shown the menu. 25000 yen per dish, we quickly got up and left, ending up with a traditional cheap fare.

Fuji, A theme park and sunrise.

If you look at a map of Japan Nagoya to Fuji looks relatively quick. Not according to JR. Back up towards the alps, across, down and around saw us finally hit Genkoji around 8pm. Got hostel sorted and had missed the last train out for Fuji. So dinner and bed it was, although not a restful night.

The next morning we got up and headed to Fuji Q, a theme park with Mt Fuji as the backdrop. Here we travelled at 172km/h, went on a 4d roller-coaster that spun us up and over as well as around. We got to run through the famous haunted hospital that actually felt real as we made our way through the corridors, up and down the stairs of the 900m long experience. At one point we even had a Scooby Doo moment. If you youtube the saftey announcements for Fuji Q you will not be disappointed.

By the time we we were done it was half 3 so headed back.

Grabbing supplies, Dinner and another person we hit the half 8 train and headed to the bus stop. 45mins later and we were on Fuji. Walking some of the way up with everyone, I made my way back down a bit and spent the evening on the side of the mountain under the moon and stars. Come 4am the moon disappeared and the sky starting getting lighter. 5am saw me standing at the back of a shrine with a few people watching the sun rise over the five lakes of Fuji.

Caught the first bus back, checked out and grabbed the train for Ito.

Nagoya. Nagoya.

Another day travelling south saw us arrive in Nagoya around 4pm. After trying to find our hostel we asked in a hotel with the same name, this ended up being our place. taking us to the 3rd floor we were shown our dorm, which was beds on the floor of a conference room. The shower room ended up being an actual room at the end of the hall. By the time it was all sorted it was evening sow e headed out and checked out the area. Lots of stores with funky products.

After sleeping in way too long we headed out. A walk across the city centre we ended up at the bottom of the Skywalk. Chris headed up while I checked out the local shops. From here it was a 10min walk North East, we ended up at Noritake garden, a former factory and grounds for the China manufacturer. There was a fare going on, selling drinks and food, one even selling honey with actual bees in it. Yummy. Six brick chimneys now overgrown with plantation. Behind these were two animatronic dinosaurs. Random. A quick look in the history building and off again.

North from here we hit the Toyota commemorative museum. Here we learnt about the history of Toyota from the small weaving company using British machines. Originally the company was called Toyoda after the owner. Early 1900’s saw America open car factories in Japan, and Japan wanting its own, Toyota cars were born with the A. Saw the cars, engines and manufacturing systems. Tried a wind tunnel. Then headed back.

Back at the hostel/hotel we got showered and changed then grabbed our room mate and headed out. A quick bite too eat, where I managed to order ice cold noodle soup.

Then Nagoya showed us how to party. Lots of bouncing and singing with random people.

We got up surprisingly early the next day. Checked out and headed 10mins out. On the 7th floor of a department store we worked our way through the Dragon Ball exhibition. Featuring original drawings, manga, anime and merchandise. Had to walk away from a couple of prints as far too expensive.

Nagano, a friendly place.

Leaving our mountain getaway we headed for Nagano, which was just east of us but due to a big mountain the train had to go back to Matsumoto first then back up. Once here we dropped our bags and headed north for Zenkoji Temple. The main road leading straight to it. The area was set up for the festivals over this period. We entered the inner sanctum of the main temple, where we also entered a passageway underneath that was pitch black. Here we were meant to find the key to enlightenment, everyone found something hanging but we are unsure whether it was an actual or metaphorical key. All in all a very surreal experience.

Walking down from the temple we checked out the various shops which contained many items that we refrained from buying in case they got damaged whilst travelling.

We headed for dinner at a ramen bar where there was no English menu or people that spoke it. Awesome.

Afterwards we hit a bar where we spent the night drinking wine with 3 Japanese people having fun.

 

Our second day in Nagano saw us heading 50 mins out via bus. From here it was a 2km walked into the mountains to find the monkey onsen. Here we were surrounded by monkeys that where running around on on our feet. Even a few fighting and running at us, which made it interesting. Here we met Jack and Simon from the London.

Later that day we all met up again and headed back to the temple for the festival. There were stalls around selling food and drinks, as well as some games.Just inside was a music stage with bands playing. In the main square was a stage with 3 circles around it. People took to the stage and people lining up on the circles. Realizing what was happening we were asked to join in so we did. Following the people on stage and 2 Japanese girls who were kind enough to help us we spent the next 2 hours dancing away. We had so many cameras on us throughout I lost count.

Afterwards, with  our new friends Hitomi and Rina we headed for Karaoke, meeting two more on the way. The eight of us spent the next 2 hours warbling away.

A fun couple of days indeed which flew by way too quickly.

4 day getaway.

Spent the first day travelling via train. The first from Osaka to Matsumoto, or as the announcer likes to say Matsuuuuumotooooo. Here we met a friendly Japanese man who was explaining the scenery. He even helped us change trains. From here it was a local train that stooped everywhere and was crowded. Slowly ascending into the Alps we had to change trains again and kept going. When we finally arrived in Kamishiro it was easy to find our hostel as it was right by the station and had a windmill on top. We were greeted by our host and told it was just us and 1 girl.

Walked down to the launderette which had a steak dinner with a back door in from the launderette.  Steak whilst we wait, don’t mind if we do. We headed back and found we had the place to ourselves, an evening of flicking through more T.V.

Checking the map the following morning we headed to main Hakuba via the train. The clouds gone we could see the mountains surrounding us. Even if they looked like a painted background with the mist. We headed right out of the station and found a log cabin restaurant, and when we entered they had fresh ingredients everywhere so couldn’t resist.

After finishing lunch we headed north up the mountain a bit to an onsen, now after reading the etiquite and what other people had said we went in. Well that was all wrong, no towels in the bath, it was Au natural. Sitting in the outside pool was really relaxing letting the body soak whilst looking at the scenery. Apparently theres good salt in the water so no washing afterwards.

Looking at the map it wasn’t far back to our hostel and a shop on the way. Off we walked, with me in flip flops. The map lied it was further. An hour and a bit later we arrived back and needed another shower. So much for a relaxing day.

The next morning we took a couple of bikes from the hostel and headed to lake Aoki. This was made interesting by the tunnel that suddenly appeared with no path. Making it through and to the lake we found all the shops closed so just found a spot on the side and went swimming. A beautiful clear lake filled by springs.

We took a different route back which was fun as downhill, this was when I found the brakes didn’t exactly work on my bike which made it more fun. When we got back our host had opened her new restaurant so we chilled and had dinner.

Come half 8 the mini bus arrived to pick us up and took us back to the lake. Here we donned life jackets and headed out in the canoe. We rowed across the lake and back to where we were swimming earlier. Pitch black with the stars out it was awesome. On the other side the trees came alive with the flashing lights of the fireflies. Here we parked under the trees and watched them all around us.

The following morning we were treated by our hosts and taken back to the lake with their canoe and allowed to take it out. A morning spent drifting and rowing around the lake was fun but after a while became too hot so headed back.

Back to Hakuba for another Onsen but made sure we took a train back this time.

When we got back I spent the evening sitting outside chatting to our hosts and a couple of customers.

Mystical mountain top.

Well we took a proper day trip away from Osaka into Wakayama where Koyo-san is. Unable to use our JR passes to get here we had to buy our first rail tickets, 3310 yen. Heading out the train was bumpier than the Shinkansen we had grown accustomed to.

We watched the city disappear and the rural towns appear. After a while we started to see mountains and before long we were winding our way along the side of them looking down. When the train finally arrived we had to transfer to a cable car, this was shaped like stairs at a 45 degree angle, pulled up by one thick cable. Lasting about 10 minutes, a shaky stop at the top and we exited onto the bus. The bus then worked along a mountain side road.

Eventually we hit a plateau and safe, carried on the bus to the top. Here we started at Okunoinmae and walked to Torodo(lantern temple) where we gained entry to the hall where they store lit lanterns, each one alight. In the main temple there was a monk chanting and people attending. Even the very old where here.

After this we walked down through the thousands upon thousands of mausoleums, where amongst the massive cedar trees and light shining down through gaps was very mystical. This itself was a sight to behold.

After making out the Sado entrance we hopped a bus down to Senjuin-bashi. Starting at the Reihohan museum area we made our first mistake of the trip when entering a temple. Rather than take our shoes off before entering we were meant to take them off before the stairs.

Making our way round to Koupon Daito, a towering red pagoda standing 40.5m.

After seeing the sights around here we finally heading to the Daimon, the entrance gate to Koyo-san, oops.

Well after spending a lot of the day here we descending and made our way back.

After visiting such a place, especially with the weather you could understand way many people follow such a religion.

Caution Deer!

Our third day in Osaka saw us take a little excursion out of the city and to Nara, which contains a massive park with lots of temples and shrines as well as what feels like a billion deer. Making our way up and across first we passed a few temples as well as people feeding the deers then getting chased by them. We passed the museum and another temple as they all seemed to charge and only wanting to see a certain couple. Headed straight to Diabutsu temple, which is massive, but it would have to be as it holds the biggest Buddhist statue in Japan. Surprisingly we were actually allowed to take photos in here. Washing ourselves we headed up the stairs at the top of which we lit an incense candle. Inside the statue was huge, around the first corner was a couple of foreigners on the bench meditating, fair enough. In a pillar there was a whole that kids were crawling through. Had a laugh at joke with some people who asked if I was going to give it a go. I told them my leg wouldn’t even fit. I also donated a tile to the renovation.

Making our way uphill still we came across a shrine adorned with doves.Across the top we found a watch hill overlooking the park but it was closed. Further on we hit a shrine that was surrounded by thousands of lanterns ready for Obon which was in a few day, it would have been a sight.

After this day trip we headed back to Osaka, a quick rest stop at the Pokemon center then it was den den town, which is Otaku heaven.

To the depths and up.

After a very hot mornings sleep we headed for the famous aquarium. This held different species from several regions of the world. Starting at the top of the building we wound our way down through each region getting deeper and deeper. Starting with the otters and seals at the top. As we went down there was one big tank that held the whale sharks as well as rays and smaller sharks. Not being big on fish, I was even amazed at this.  Further down we saw the endangered species, including the awesome hawk bill sea turtle. In the depths with the lights turned down we saw the amazing jellyfish that glowed under the dim lighted corridors.

After the sea adventure we headed across Osaka to the castle, one of the top visited attractions, highly joked that its because its the only thing to see here. It has been burnt done and rebuilt lots of times. The 2 moats that surround it are huge, the outer filled with water and inner left to fill with vegetation. The castle itself toward 8 stories, but what is funny is inside you get modern stairs and a couple of elevators. Starting at the top overlooking Osaka we worked our way down. There’s ‘3D’ style screens depicting the history, which reminded me of the old TV show Knightmare. Several displays of paintings depicting the area through the ages and a couple of awesome Armour sets. Did not try anything on this time.

That night we ended up in a beer garden where you pay a price for 2 hours of unlimited drinking, we had to wear paper bands but like everything here it didn’t fit so laughingly the waitress wrapped it round my little finger. Wouldn’t get this back at home anymore.

Castle, lunch then Lights.

With only the morning left in Hiroshima we headed for the castle. This was five stories high, where we started by making our way to the top. The surrounding view wasn’t that great. It was nice of them to show us how the castle was built at the top rather than the bottom on the way out…  The displays and information were quite cool to look at, we even donned some Armour but whoever wore it must have been a small guy.

For lunch it was the local specialty of Okonomyiaki. A layered dish, from bottom up, pancake, noodles, meat, cabbage and veg, egg and sauce. Filling but delicious.

That afternoon we arrived in Osaka, a quick tube transfer and we were at Namba station. To get from here to our hostel we used the massive Namba walk which seem to be miles of maze like shopping under the streets of this district. How I see us living in the future.

We headed out to view the area, it was kind of like Akihabara and Haru-juku mixed, very busy and full of young people. Coming out of one place I forgot it was night time due to the bright lights from the billboards, this is also where the famous Glica man is.

A night under the lights.

Peace

After talking to people the day before we found out that its pretty much a national holiday in the middle of August for the Oban festival. So spent some time sorting out places to stay.

A nice bakery by the hostel, where I got my first bacon.

Said goodbye to some new friends, one we planned to meet later, and off we went to Hiroshima.

Got off the train and got a tram back the way we just came.

The place of stay here was a Ryoken style hotel, right by the Peace park.

We started our Park tour on the east side by the very real Atomic bomb dome, a building that has not been torn down or rebuilt since it was hit, but left as a reminder. We entered the actual park from the north entrance where the T shaped bridge is. As we entered there was a Seiko clock that tolls at 8:15am everyday. This was followed by the peace bell, that they ask people to strike to wish peace. As we headed south through the park there were several demonstrations and displays calling for peace. Next up was the displays of paper cranes made by school children. Another stand showing newspaper pages of the time. South still and they were setting up for the next annual peace meeting due after we left. Just by the peace museum demonstrators were just beginning their march, thousands carrying flags they set off through the streets. We entered the peace museum. I don’t think that this is something easily put into words, it is one of the most overwhelming experiences I have seen in a long time. If you ever find yourself over this way I would suggest visiting.