A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: urchinjoe

The End

sunny 26 °C

I'm going to write a triple purpose blog today. First, I'll record what we did today, then go back over some of the highlights of the whole holiday. Its got pretty tough to remember them all but, and this not a comprehensive list, and is in no special order. Then I'll note down one or two points that might help anyone checking this blog for tips in Japan... the blog isn't much use for that as its too personal, sporadic, and doesn't use many proper names of places... but I've got one or two nuggets of useful information.

So we woke up this morning and alison suggested that rather than doing what we'd planned we'd go to Kyoto and check out an interesting temple... she wanted a bum bag we'd seen there earlier too but we didn't buy it in the end. But we got on the wrong bus (in Kyoto) and went to a different temple instead, one with a sacred waterfall in a glade and a huge gate and a Roman looking aquaduct. Gate was good as it was OK to climb it and look at the view, and it had a really nice painted room up top but no photos allowed! Aquaduct interesting, and the waterfall was really pretty. But I think it was the wrong waterfall as there was meant to be a torii up there and there wasn't. Saw a snake and a lizard. Went on to first planned temple to see 1001 Kannon statues with forty arms each and one HUGE one and... 28 or 33 guardian deities, many national treasures. really awesome (literal meaning) sight but again no photos. postcards on sale only in packs of six, two good, two pretty good, one average and one poor one. We'll post 'em to you. Despite stupid rule (not religious as postcards would then be banned too) this was one of the best temples / things I've seen here, well worth it.

Headed back to Osaka and went to the docks to ride the world's biggest ferris wheel which was actually pretty damn big and worried even me a little, but Alison showed great courage and rode it with me and even enjoyed bits of it. Ate junk food and headed back to the hotel, and almost came unstuck as encountered first all Kanji sign! but obviously We're back.

In summary: These are just a few of my real highlights. top of the list has to be climbing Mount Fuji, if only becasue I nearly failed. It was so worth the pain. Miyajima was great, standing under the O-Tori and scooping up piles of victory; Himeji-jo is an equally impressive sight as you can wander around the old castle streets and buildings to your hearts content. Nara's Daibutsu den is fantastic, that Buddha is massive and if I can squeeze through the pillar anyone can, the 1001 Kannon from todays trip make another great sight just for sheer numbers. Kinkaku-ji and the large pagoda at Koya-san Garran are my next two favourite temples, and the many torii at the Inari shrine in Kyoto are worth a look too. The rest... facing down a typhoon, riding the world's biggest big wheel, lifting the sinless stone, eating in a sushi bar in Tokyo, chatting to Hirioshi, plumb wine in Ino's place, Sapporo in Sapporo, Kyoto station, Tenjin Matsuri, the heron dance and Tsuwano, "Socialising in the nude" at the onsen, sleeping in temples, Hiroshima's contradictary atmosphere, purple shirt guy, plumb wine guy, helpful officials, ridiculous rules, hot nights and hotter days and aircon, and changes of plan with brilliant results. Alison really made this a great holiday too, as despite both of our grumps she's really helped me several times, been brave enough to ride several vertiginous rides for me, stopped people in the street for directions and looked after the rail passes.

Tips: Tsuwano has no internet access but a really helpful tourist office who will even organise that you can camp in the park if you ask nicely.

The Sea of Japan coast is poorly served by rail and journeys need careful planning or flexible itineries.

Miyajima is just as good at low tide, but stay the night for the full experience (it isn't cheap though).

Takayama has a really cheap temple with garden views... not Koya-san but three times cheaper.

Hokaido is really big and cannot be done in a week. The Ainu museum in Sapporo is located in the botanical garden, and in the massive government style building opposite too.

Japan is really, really big and cannot be done in a month.

Short distance rail journeys e.g. Osaka - Kyoto are cheap. Long distance is not.

Den-den town, Osaka, closes on wednesdays.

Mount Fuji is invisible.

This is my last blog, but I might post some pictures when I get home. See you soon.

Posted by urchinjoe 21:20 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Osaka, Koya-san, and Nara

sunny 35 °C

Its been a pretty busy few days but everything seems to be falling into place quite neatly and there have been no calamities yet. We think Osaka just had a small earthquake though.

We went to Tenjin Matsuri, which had a really good parade with lion dancers and music and floats and monks and stuff. then everything got a bit disorganised when they hit the river, we think we saw the basics - many boats, including one that crashed into a bridge and ruined the toilet on the back! then we watched the fireworks, which were cunningly viewed from pretty much the only bridge on the river FROM WHICH THEY COULDN'T BE SEEN. barriers were six feet high, crowds mental. so we forced our way back to the temple and watched the final parade, bumped into a fella from the hostel - which was uncomfortably hot (the hostel. not the fella) - and a japanese guy who spoke good english and a yakusa who made a little girl cry.

left osaka for koya-san early, arrived and checked into a really great temple. one of the best accomodations so far, but i forget its name. cost double any other place weve been. from there we explored koya-san, first the huge graveyard with Kobo-daishi's sleeping body, and a stone that only those who are free from sin can lift. we both lifted it but it took two hands! got eaten by mosquitoes. graves includes some crazy monuments including one from nissan. then we saw the garan, sacred precinct, with a HUGE pagoda, really impressive inside and out but no photos allowed inside. also a massive gate, and general temple stuff. evening saw us eat a meal in a private dining anex of our bedroom, or rather i ate a plie of tofu and alison had to make do with rice and pickles and melon.

next day rose at five thirty for a buddhist service, then on to breakfast - a repeat of the previous night but with more tofu. went to the main temple of the complex which housed japans largest rock garden, which was worth a look, and some screens and the site of a famous suicide. from there we went to Nara, which is really good. we are stationed by a nice pond with terrapins, a 5 story pagoda (second biggest in japan) and the park - full of deer. we visited the shops, the pagoda, and a grand shinto shrine with thousands of lanterns. closed. on the way back we were attacked by deer and alison jumped but i defended her. then we saw a nice pond with a tea pavillion in the water, full of schoolkids. oh forgot, at the garan there were kids on like a ghost tour and they kept screaming and running around.

today weve seen the worlds largest wooden building and a huge bronze Buddha - photos allowed. its nostrils are about 1.5 feet wide. at the back is a pillar with a hole the size of a nostril. those who fit through are guaranteed enlightenment. i got some worried looks and crys of "try! try!" from the locals. alison squeezed through but hurt her boobs, then a little guy in purple just fit through with help from his pal. i followed. about a foot taller and twice as wide. got my arms in then alison grabbed my hand and pulled me in until i wedged! it was curved! purple guy grabbed arm number two and pulled, then two other guys joined in and out i popped! had to wait for alison to take my picture then slid out, enlightened.

now we are in a net cafe instead of visiting a tomb - closed.

thanks to all those whove contacted me, ive no time to write persoanl emails as im busy. i'll get back to you.

oh and my bad back... turns out its my right bum cheek has a trapped nerve and its kinda better after alison gave me a massage. on my bum.

mum? dad? nothing to say to me? ive been away a month and heard nothing! you can leave comments on the blog! or call alisons parents and they can email us or comment.

Posted by urchinjoe 11:34 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Typhoon Update!

or, a long day.

storm 25 °C

We didn't go to bed last night, we stayed up in the train station nestled in a cozy corner after a long, cold Hokkaido day. Our train was three am, and all we had for company was a deck of cards, a book, and a crazy guy by the name of Hiroshi, who, after confidently introducing himself, lived to regret it when our massive language barrier made conversation a series of gestures, thumbs up, and ums. but Alison took the biscuit, when her complaint of mosquito bites somehow left him thinking she thought he was yakuza mafia. he did have a lot of tatoos...

anyway, eventually we slept on a really good sleeper seat train, with snoring man, seats went to the horizontal, and somehow made it to tokyo despite all the crazy changes. we beat the typhoon by about 9 hours, but the line to hiroshima was closed!

so, to make the most of things alison bought me a transformer from akihabara - dad, i've a fixing of transformers related job for you. we also got me a battery charger slightly smaller than the camera dock and got a typhoon update at the camera shop, it was sitting on hiroshima apparantly on its way!

station advice was as good as military intelligence, what they did know, they couldn't tell us. so we went to our trusty welcome inn reservation centre, who got us a night in tokyo and a free cancellation of the night we'd missed in Hiroshima. go welcome inn! so now we're crashing out, would be riding out the storm right now except...

... it heard i was in town, turned its course seawards, and fled with its cloudy tail between its legs. missed tokyo by about a hundred miles, we got gusts and showers is all! so i faced down the hurricane, and just when it looked to have beaten me, i ended up winning.

so we're safe.

oh, and now that we've gone south its hot and humid again, still grey skys but unbelievably different climate to the north. its like if aberdeen - london was the difference between winter and tropics.

Joe and Alison

Posted by urchinjoe 19:03 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

The Eye of the Storm

overcast 12 °C

I don't know if its hit the UK news yet, but Japan just got hit by a typhoon. Fortunately, we're safe in Hokaido... but, after much deliberation, won't be for long.

We have been wondering for a while if its possible to visit any of the other islands, but it turns out that Japan is to big to "do" in a month, even with the shinkansen. So, having checked out some of Kansai, and Hokaido, we eventually decided to just pootle down to western honshu, so alison could see miyajima tori. then, last night, we turned on the tv news... typhoon had hit kyushu and okinowa, the south islands we'd only just decided not to visit! and its on its way to tokyo.

this morning, we talked to tourist information (drunk) and rail info (who spoke very little english), and eventually we ascertained that the typhoon would probably bypass hiroshima, the trains were not cancelled, and that the sea was the likely place for the typhoon to end up. or, don't go south, you'll end up in the sea. who knows. jp meteorological ascossiation map shows eta typhoon tokyo at 0600hours tomorrow. our train arrives at 7a.m. this tallys with our plan to hit the typhoon head on, get past it, before it messes up the infrastructure of the rail network too much, chill in hiroshima for three nights behind the typhoon, and then start again in the clear. is this the right move? no one here can venture any better than "typhoon? train? ticket?"

see you later, possibly in the sea.

joe

ps i am now a seperate author to alison and my camera is nearly out of batteries.

Posted by urchinjoe 02:42 Archived in Japan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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