Day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima

Very early start for today, alarm sounded at 6am…..practically the middle of the night! Anyway, on the fast train down to Hiroshima, only took 1 hour 40 mins. We firstly headed to an island called Miyajima, which involved a local train out of Hiroshima and then a short ferry ride to the island. The main attraction of this island is the floating torii that is in the water, it's the gate to Itsukushima-jinja temple on the waters edge. The torii was built out in the water as the temple was too sacred to be approach by commoners on foot and so you had to enter the temple via boat…hence entering under the floating torii.

The temple itself was cool at its all built over the water.

While we visited the temple we saw a wedding party having their photos taken, the bride looked immaculate, not a hair was out of place.

On the island they have a number of wild deer, that are very tame, and they worn you that they will eat paper and other things if you leave it accessible. Was rather weird walking along the streets with deer roaming past you.

 

We looked around the island a little and then headed back on the ferry and local train back into Hiroshima. Time for lunch, so we headed to the locally popular Okonomi-mura, which has 27 outlets over 4 levels all selling the same dish….okonomiyaki….yep more Japanese pancakes. These ones had noodles in them….have to say, they where really yummy, and went down nicely with a cold beer.

Next we headed down to Peace Memorial Park and the Peace Memorial Museum (A-bomb Museum) which has a very detailed history of Japan and the impact on Japan and Hiroshima of the dropping of the nuclear bomb on 6 August 1945. Needless to say the museum had some confronting images and stories of the impact of being the first and only town hit by a nuclear bomb, lets hope it will be the last.

The park has a number of monuments in it including the cenotaph which holds all the names of known victims, and each year on the anniversary they add any new victims who have passed away in the past year. The Flame of Peace is near by and will not be extinguished until all nuclear weapons are destroyed, sadly it might burn for a long time yet.

Further on in the park is the children's memorial. This was inspired by leukemia suffer Sadako Sasaki, you may of heard of the book called Sadako and the thousand paper cranes, I know I read it as a kid. In case you haven't, when she got sick at age 10 as a result of being exposed to radiation when she was 2, she decided to fold 1000 paper cranes as its an ancient Japanese custom through which it is believed that a persons wish will come true. She died before folding all the cranes, but her class mates finished them for her. Her story inspired Japan and they still fold cranes today, with local children folding them and putting them on display at this memorial.

At the end of the park is the most famous image of the Hiroshima bombing, the A-Bomb Dome. Photos of the town after the bomb show that literally the whole town was flattened except for a few buildings, this was one of them and today remains in the same condition as the day it was bombed, the bomb practically exploded 600m above this building and was the centre of the devastation.

 

Day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima

Very early start for today, alarm sounded at 6am…..practically the middle of the night! Anyway, on the fast train down to Hiroshima, only took 1 hour 40 mins. We firstly headed to an island called Miyajima, which involved a local train out of Hiroshima and then a short ferry ride to the island. The main attraction of this island is the floating torii that is in the water, it's the gate to Itsukushima-jinja temple on the waters edge. The torii was built out in the water as the temple was too sacred to be approach by commoners on foot and so you had to enter the temple via boat…hence entering under the floating torii.

The temple itself was cool at its all built over the water.

While we visited the temple we saw a wedding party having their photos taken, the bride looked immaculate, not a hair was out of place.

On the island they have a number of wild deer, that are very tame, and they worn you that they will eat paper and other things if you leave it accessible. Was rather weird walking along the streets with deer roaming past you.

 

We looked around the island a little and then headed back on the ferry and local train back into Hiroshima. Time for lunch, so we headed to the locally popular Okonomi-mura, which has 27 outlets over 4 levels all selling the same dish….okonomiyaki….yep more Japanese pancakes. These ones had noodles in them….have to say, they where really yummy, and went down nicely with a cold beer.

Next we headed down to Peace Memorial Park and the Peace Memorial Museum (A-bomb Museum) which has a very detailed history of Japan and the impact on Japan and Hiroshima of the dropping of the nuclear bomb on 6 August 1945. Needless to say the museum had some confronting images and stories of the impact of being the first and only town hit by a nuclear bomb, lets hope it will be the last.

The park has a number of monuments in it including the cenotaph which holds all the names of known victims, and each year on the anniversary they add any new victims who have passed away in the past year. The Flame of Peace is near by and will not be extinguished until all nuclear weapons are destroyed, sadly it might burn for a long time yet.

Further on in the park is the children's memorial. This was inspired by leukemia suffer Sadako Sasaki, you may of heard of the book called Sadako and the thousand paper cranes, I know I read it as a kid. In case you haven't, when she got sick at age 10 as a result of being exposed to radiation when she was 2, she decided to fold 1000 paper cranes as its an ancient Japanese custom through which it is believed that a persons wish will come true. She died before folding all the cranes, but her class mates finished them for her. Her story inspired Japan and they still fold cranes today, with local children folding them and putting them on display at this memorial.

At the end of the park is the most famous image of the Hiroshima bombing, the A-Bomb Dome. Photos of the town after the bomb show that literally the whole town was flattened except for a few buildings, this was one of them and today remains in the same condition as the day it was bombed, the bomb practically exploded 600m above this building and was the centre of the devastation.

 

Day 2 on the bikes…..more temples!!!!

Back on the bikes again today…..but today the weather is perfect, hardly a cloud in the sky, about 34 today. First stop today…surprise surprise, it's another temple! But this is one of the best on Kyoto….it's called Kinkakuji Temple, or Golden temple due to the top two levels being covers in gold leaf.

One of the temples in the grounds had an English fortune telling thingy (technical term that one), anyway we been seeing people at all the temples, get a piece of paper and then sometimes tying it to a fence. In English we discovered that its a fortune and if you get a bad fortune you tie it to the fence.

So we got one, mine said my fortune was 'quite good'…..mmmm that's not inspiring. It also said its better not to take the lead in anything….so Claudia, your in charge for the rest of the trip!

Next temple on the list was a small one we stopped at, not that impressive, but at least it gave us a break from the uphills on the bike. It did however have a 5 storey pagoda, which was cool, but really hard to get a photo of it.
 
As they say, what goes up, must come down, so after a long down hill ride followed by a long flat ride, we got to an area of Kyoto called Arashiyama, here was, you guessed it….another temple. We both getting a little templed out, but each one does offer someone different, this last one of Kyoto was no exception. The last temple we visited is called Tenryuji Temple. It has a beautiful garden, including a zen garden. You sit down on the temple veranda and look over the zen garden and contemplate life. PS. that's my foot contemplating more riding and walking!
Next to the garden was a beautiful wooden path way, where you could stroll along and take in the gardens.
 
Just next to the temple gardens is the Bamboo Forrest….which is exactly as it sounds, but had a walking track through it, was lovely and cool under the shade of the bamboo trees.
 

On our way out of town, we stopped at the famous Arashiyama Bridge ove the Oi Rver. One last photo opportunity before staring the hour long ride back into the centre of town to return our bikes.

 

While we have manged to eat a lot of different food in Japan so far on this trip, one thing we hadn't had yet was yakitori, so we headed out for dinner over in Gion. The place was cool, you sat at the bar and could see the chefs cooking, even the waiters made some of the dished right in front of you. First was a bowl of raw vegetables, never had raw eggplant before…was not too bad.

The actual yakitori was delicious, crispy chicken skin with juicy chicken….yummmo

We also had a dish called shabu shabu….which is just cooked chicken in a broth, was yummy.

Time for some sake……sake by the wine glass….we been in Japan too long. We also got chatted up by some Japanese business men at dinner….well as well as they could without speaking a word on English.

 

 

Riding around Kyoto….day 1

This morning we woke to grey skies and rain…..doh, so typical the day we planned to ride bikes around town is the first day we get rain for the whole trip…oh well, it just water.

Rented bikes…tick, dorky ponchos….tick, map routed out….tick….and we off. It may have been raining but it was still hot and those plastic ponchos do not breathe. Anyway, lucky for us it pretty much had stopped by the time we got to our first temple, Fushimi-inari taisha.

It's one of the top attractions in Kyoto, it's famous for its toril tunnels, they where really cool.

 

As we left the temple grounds we got approached by a tv crew….turns out we are going to appear on some Japanese TV show. They have famous japanese entertainers go to major tourist attractions and try ask foreign tourists questions in English about why they came to Kyoto.

A few kilometers up the road, we popped into a temple our bike rental man suggested we visit, Shimogamo-jinji temple. They had a 3 day festival on which meant you got to walk through the waters at the temple….so of course we did!

PS…the water was freezing, but at the same time very refreshing. As you walked through you had to light your candle and then place it on a stand at the end…..this was an extremely popular thing to do, we lucked out with our timing and pretty much walked through the whole thing without waiting, but they had robes indicating queues that stretched forever, so we felt pretty lucky to have participated.

Back on our bikes and off to the next location, the silver pavilion, Ginkakui Temple…..this was one of the best we have seen, the gardens around the temple where just gorgeous. This gardener was raking the zen garden…..it took him ages just to do one line, he checked and double checked and re-raked it over and over again. Looked more like hard work then relaxing to me!

 

 

 

 

 

Just for good measure, we did one more temple….this was was called Nanzenji Temple.

One of the down sides to traveling is the need to do laundry, tonight was that night. Popped our laundry in the machine and headed off for a quick bite. We got back to our machine 2 mins after it finished to find a bunch, about 10, of Japanese school boys pulling our laundry out of the machine and laughing and looking at our clothes…..literally school buys laughing over women's underwear, boys will be boys, no matter the country!

Day 2 on the bikes again tomorrow, i am really looking forward to it, I totally miss my bike….is that sad!

 

Feeling hot hot hot!

Headed out this morning to do the Southern Higashiyama walking tour, got out of the hotel to a very sunny day, not a cloud in the sky…..mmm think it might be a hot one today.

First temple today was Kiyomizudera Temple…..up a hill and up a lot of stairs.

Next was a couple of charming little streets with old wooden houses and traditional shops and restaurants, called Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka.

I am surprised at the number of ladies we have seen on the streets and at all the temples wearing their kimonos, spotted these young ladies on Ishibel-koji.

Another temple or two before heading to Maruyama-Koen….a park, but again I would more call it a garden.
Last temple of today was Yasaka-jinja….we pretty hot by now, it was 39 degrees, with very high humidity….it was hot!
We stopped at a random place for late lunch, where they only had one thing n the menu…we didn't realise this until we inside, but it was so lovely and cool inside, we just said '2 please'. Turned out to be pretty good, a local speciality called Issen Yosyouk……basically a variation on Japanese pancakes.
The weirdest thing about this place was that they had manakins sitting randomly at some of the tables…..couldn't resist taking this sneaky photo of a man and his rather boring date
 
After lunch we headed of to a tea house to see if we could do a tea ceremony….no booking, no idea of when they do it, but the travel gods where with us as we rocked up just as they about to start a ceremony and they had room for us to join. They take you through a very short ceremony as traditional ones can go literally for hours, we couldn't take photos during the ceremony, but we got to make and try our own green tea afterwards….I don't like it, but I don't like tea!
 

So after a day of walking around Kyoto in 39 degrees, we deserved a beer, so we popped into a Izakaya….turned out this was a Mexican themed one…we didn't care, they sold beer….ahhhhh!

After much needed showers we headed out to dinner, to a highly recommended family owned restaurant down a little alley way……it was the best sashimi I have ever had it my life, it just melted in your mouth. The stuff in the cup to the left is steamed eggs….also delicious, in fact everything at this place was delicious.

 

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We left Takayama today, but not before a traditional Japanese b'fast at our ryokan…….ahhh love having food brought to me in my room while still in my pj's. The ladies come and clear away our mattresses and then set up a beautiful b'fast. All the usual suspects….miso, green tea, fish, pickled veg and of course rice! No idea what the stuff was on the brown leave…..but it was beautiful!

I managed to get a few shots from the train as we descended the mountains towards Nagoya, really the most beautiful train ride. The photos not great, do keep in mind we on a fast moving train, but you certainly get an idea of the beauty.

Next destination is Kyoto. We had to catch two trains to get from Takayama to Kyoto, changing at Nagoya (aka Sumo Town). So far on this trip trains have departed and arrived exactly on time….literally within the minute they scheduled. So you know what's about to happen….we had 18 mins to change trains at Nagoya….and our train was 19 mins late…so we missed our train by a minute….very annoying. Next train was in an hour….oh well, such a shame they have a department store in the train station….it would be rude not to go check it out…..now I have a new scarf as a souvenir thanks to the rare late trains in Japan.

We finally arrive in Kyoto, and checked in to our hotel….this place is a little fancy, it has a chapel in it…..literally a full sized stone chapel built inside an atrium of the hotel…..can't get a photo as its always closed as its being used for weddings.

We headed off to explore Kyoto, firstly heading to the Nishiki Market, which sells all manner of fish and vegetables, and things that we simply have no idea what they are, best part was its an indoor air conditioned market, great when it's 36 degrees.

All this food was making my hungry, and while you could sample stuff in the market, I needed food! So we found a place that did Japanese pancakes….it was about 4 o'clock so we thought we just grab a beer….it was hot after all, and a snack before dinner. The place we went to had a hot grill in the middle of each table, we thought we might get to cook our own okonomiyaki…..how cool, but no they just brought out the cooked pankcake and then put it on the HOT hot plate and you served yourself from the hot plate….mmmm the words 'pointless' comes to mind….but was a really yummy okonomiyaki.

After this we went geisha spotting…… mmmmmm me thinks this just a hoax on tourists as we didn't spot any. We walked about the Gion area of Kyoto which is known for its exclusive bars that the geisha's entertain business men at, but you have to know someone and be invited to go to them. So a few things going against us here, but I kept my eyes peeled, but no luck….the below photo was the best I could do…..inset sad face here!

We walked down Ponto Cho which is along the side of the river, a cute little street with all the restaurants having balconies that overlook the river, we couldn't get just a drink at one, so plan to come back another night, but the lane and the river where interesting to walk along…..even if I didn't see any geisha's!!!

 

Old traditions of Japan

Woke early this morning and went to the Miyagawa Morning Market which is set up along the Miyagawa river. Was a small little collection of local ladies selling their fresh fruit and veg, and also lots of rice crackers and pickled everything, you can hardly walk ten metres in this town without the option to buy rice crackers or pickled vegetables.

All over town they had these little huts or windows that you could buy food on sticks, one we saw a few times was one with sticky rice balls covered in soy sauce called mitarashi-dango, was ok!

 

Next on the list was a visit to Hida-No-Soda which means Hida Folk Village with a number of traditional buildings with thatched and shingled roofs, was like walking back in time.

 
Was a little hard to get photos inside due to lighting, but a few below will give you the idea. First one is a hall way, with the rooms on the left and then the white walls slide open to the outside.
Below is the inside of the thatched roof, was pretty impressive.
All the houses had a fire pit in them, which was the kitchen, you can see white labels of each side of the square, these indicated who sat where.

You could also have a go at a number of different hands on activities……so naturally we tried them all! First was dressing up like farmers…..don't we look awesome!

Next was water pistols….fill them with water and then try hit the target and spin the propeller….we both hit it!

We also played some kids games made of wood, the aim of this one was to land the ball attached to the string onto the cup….Claudia was very impressed she got it!

 

I attempted to walk on bamboo stilts…..this was not easy, and in no way did I master this.

We also got to cook up some rice crackers in the kiln.

One of the must do things to any trip to Japan is a stay in a ryokan, a traditional japanese wooden house with tatami mats on the floor, and sliding rice paper doors separating the rooms.

Ours also had a onsen, hot bath, which we soaked in, very relaxing. Sorry no photo of me in it……my manager is reading this!

 

You also get to wear a traditional yukata after your bath.

Part of the experience is having the traditional dinner called a kaiseki in your room, where you can continue to wear your yukata…..so we did! We had the most adorable little old lady serve us our meal, all dressed up in her kimono.

You name it, it was included in our dinner; sake, tea, miso soup, sushi, Hida beef, noodles, pickled veg, tempura, chicken skewer, salad and plenty of rice! Was all very yummy, except the pink pickled thing that Claudia tried first and strongly suggested I give it a miss!

 

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