01.07.2007 - 30.07.2007 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.