Australia and Oceania, Asia · 20 Days · 49 Moments · May 2018

Japan 2018


29 May 2018

A couple of fashion accidents for sure! 🤣😂
How many more adventures ahead before you’re homeward bound?

25 May 2018

Loved seeing your photos! Hope you’re enjoying every minute.

23 May 2018

Some of the temple buildings and grounds at Narita san. Back to Narita Airport for our flight to Hong Kong and then home. A wonderful trip with some special memories of people and places and experiences.
This morning we were out of the hotel after breakfast and off to Narita Airport to drop off the people going on the China leg of the tour. Then the bus took us out to Naritasan Shinsho ji a Shingon Buddhist temple complex. Several of the buildings have been designated National Important Cultural Properties. This excursion was not booked on our original itinerary but was a great addition for our last day. The town of Narita san attracts quite a few long layover tourists in transit from the nearby Narita International Airport. It is a cute little village with very picturesque narrow streets and shops selling all sorts of weird and wonderful food stuffs. I couldn't decide whether one of the foods was animal or vegetable! We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant, again cooking the food at our tables. Afterwards we were able to have some time to explore the town and shrine.

22 May 2018

Back to Tokyo for our farewell dinner - it was Shabu Shabu in the Shinjuku district.This is a very popular place and there were people, and signage and sound blaring everywhere. Godzilla perched on top of the nearby buildings glaring over the edge. The meal was all you can eat and cooked at the table. Messy and yummy! Afterwards we jumped back on the bus for a trip to see the Tokyo night lights from the South building of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices. Huge queues lined up awaiting their turn to be admitted. What a sight for our last day. Returning to ground level we passed the rough shelters of some homeless people. They prefer to stay out of sight avoiding people and do not beg like their counterparts in Melbourne.
Magnificen Kairakuen garden. We sat under a shady tree eating lunch. It was peaceful and warm in the sun, just fun relaxing and chatting. Afterwards we strolled at leisure. There were beautiful stands of cedar trees, Japanese apricots, Japonicas and cherry trees. Some trees were 800 years old. We were fortunate to see a team of gardeners pruning trees around the lake. Actually, manicuring would be a better description. All this beauty is the result of generations of planning and meticulous work. It would have been totally stunning in blossom season, but I would have hated the crowds! I saw a beautiful swallowtail butterfly. Kazumi says she used to see a lot of them as a child but not so many now. A Japanese lady came up to chat to some of us. She had visited Australia 40 years ago and could recall the song "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree... ". I started to sing it and she with others joined in. Then she sang a Japanese song which one of our people knew!
Along the way Kazumi plied us with more information. Kairakuen means 'park to be enjoyed together' - not only for the ruling lord but for the public too. It has over 3000 plum trees - Japanese apricot trees, as well as a bamboo grove, cedar woods, and the Kobuntei a traditional Japanese style building.
Off to Kairakuen Gardens today which is one of the three finest landscape gardens in Japan. It is about 2 hrs northwest of Tokyo near Mito. We stopped at Tomobe to get our lunch supplies.

21 May 2018

Some last photos from our leisure day.
Emerging at last we decided to go on to the famed Ginza district, trusting ourselves once again to the fabulous subway system. The trains were crowded, quite an experience for us! The atmosphere in the Ginza was fabulous with the sky deepening in colour as night began to fall. The lights and the bustle were infectious.
Ginza moments. The Nissan Crossing showroom displaying a couple of concept cars certainly drew a lot of attention as did the applauding butterfly window! Sal's bow drew laughter from the crowd. The butterflies performed their clapping, starting with the bottom row, and increasing row by row of the display. They were triggered by someone standing on the 'foot prints' painted on the pavement.
Tokyo: free day. Sal and I decided to go to the Mitzukoshi store in the Nihonbashi district for a bit of retail therapy in the morning followed by a boat ride on the river. The Nihonbashi district is known for its commercial prosperity as the 'centre of Japan'; Mitzukoshi is Japan's oldest surviving department store, built in 1935. Its beginnings can be traced to the powerful merchant family Mitsui selling Kimonos and textiles in the district in 1673. That was the plan... but we spent most of the day there, looking at clothes, paper goods, fabrics, food and the upstairs art gallery. We couldn't get over the number of assistants on hand - including the specialist English speakers ready to interpret if need be. This was especially useful when we got into conversations with the local artisans demonstrating their crafts such as fabric printing, woodworking, and bamboo weaving. The food section was eye opening and it was handy to be able to make duty free claims on the 8th floor.

20 May 2018

View from the hotel window, flowers for Ann, mural from the train station, dinner and dessert, is there an election around the corner?, night lights and sights.
At the place Mum and Les and I had lunch we met a man who had travelled from Nagano, leaving at 3am in the morning to take part in the festival. Various movable shrines were carried through the streets by men dressed distinctly in clothes from their area. Music, food stalls, people of all ages everywhere.
Next destination the Asakusa Kannon Temple and Nakamise shopping street. The Sanja Matsuri Festival was in full progress. It is one of the three major Shinto festivals and Tokyo's largest festival, honouring the founders of the Asakusa Sensoji Temple. Streets were closed around the area, with crowds of people pressed all around all - the noise and sights and sounds were almost overwhelming.
First destination is the Edo Tokyo Museum.
Tokyo means eastern capital. The present emperor is the 125th emperor. Travelling to Tokyo we passed the Fujiko Amusement Park with really scary rollercoasters. Tokyo is enormous with high rise buildings extending into the far distance. In all the metropolitan bustle it was funny to see fishermen on boats on the river.

19 May 2018

End of day views Motosu View Hotel
Views of the Fuji Shibazakura Festival. This is a festival displaying the beautiful Moss Phlox which carpets the ground. Again there were throngs of people and thousands upon thousands of beautiful flowering plants. Some sections were finished or past their best but it was still a great thing to experience. Mt Fuji stood witness, majestic in the background.
Got up early to walk in the lovely grounds of the Motosu View Hotel in the grey mistiness. Had breakfast and turned around to look outside and there was Mt Fuji, out of hiding from behind the clouds! Talk about lucky - a beautiful day to travel to the fifth station on Mt Fuji, about 2300 metres above sea level. Busloads of people from all over had also come to see this majestic sight and it did not disappoint. It was quite fresh at that altitude and so enjoyable looking around. All too soon we had to head off, visiting the Fujisan World Heritage Centre to learn about the fascinating geological history of Mt Fuji. It was here I saw and succumbed to buying a beautiful kimono.

18 May 2018

Enjoyed very tasty sardines with sesame seeds at breakfast along with a lot of other Japanese food. Sometimes I don't know what I am eating! Today we had our first glimpse of Mt Fuji, saw vivid mollus azaleas, smelt sweet wisteria which climbed through the trees, and a experienced the strange smell of cedars (I think). We went through many mountain tunnels (toenails), saw milky blue rivers and lakes. I even saw some sulphur springs. Then there was landslide damage. Finished the day with delicious dinner followed by a relaxing Onsen.

17 May 2018

Following was the Tea Ceremony. It is a very formalised ritual with a lot of rules of etiquette. The sweet placed on a special piece of paper, was eaten before the tea was served. It was green, purple and yellow - a strange dessert sight for Western eyes. The drink was not your usual green tea and not quite to everyone's liking. Altogether the ceremony was a delightful experience. At our accomodation there was an Onsen(hot baths). Sal and I dressed up in the blue kiminos provided (remembering left over right wapping), hammed it up, then had our first Onsen experience with other Onsenites. There was one inside and another outside in the refreshing night air. It had a view over the town and the water was very hot so it was a very relaxing experience. I wouldn't mind if the hydrotherapy pools at home were this temperature! A great end for a wonderful day.
Kazumi and our driver Umino-san contrived an unscheduled and delightful stop at the Old Centre in Takayama. There are many distinctive dark wooden buildings in this section and it is known for the portable shrine processions.The portable shrines are very elaborate and it must be a great sight to see them all out. The last picture is the sign for a post office.
Quirkies - I couldn't resist!
Scenes from Shirakawago Gassho Village
Yummy Japanese brekky and now off to Shirakawago Gassho village 1.5hrs away. It used to be a centre for making potassium nitrate for gunpowder. Japan, being resource poor, couldn't extract it from the ground as is done in Europe. They had to manufacture it: collecting grass, adding animal urine, burying it underground to ferment, and lastly digging up and boiling it to produce the KNO3. Mist shrouded the hills, gentle drizzle fell. It created a perfect nostalgic atmosphere for this UNESCO site. Picturesque Gassho Zukuri houses were dotted around. They have a steeply slanting, thickly thatched pampas grass roof, which can last 20 - 30 years. Formerly making the roof was a community effort with neighbours - nowadays volunteers are called in. Very tempted to buy the jocks for Max, did buy the socks for me!

16 May 2018

Dinner at a restaurant in the Kanazawa Station was a typical Japanese pork dish followed by a decadent Chocolate and Banana Sundae of sorts at a different cafe. It was here that we left behind (momentarily) the beautiful Japanese walking stick. After finishing the desserts we went to an Officeworks type store to check on camera batteries. There were an unbelievable number of staff everwhere, stocking shelves and helping customers. This seems the norm in Japan. We had been there for perhaps 5 minutes when we realised that Sal didn't have the stick. She was getting assistance from someone so I dashed off to retrieve it. Interesting experience as we had gone down some levels and along to an entirely different part of the centre. I only had visual memory to rely on: all shop signage was mumbo jumbo. To my relief I found both the cafe and cane. Finally I had to navigate back to the store and find Sal - no small feat in such a large store. A happy ending all round.
Travelling about 250km today to Kanazawa and stopping at Lake Suwa (sounds like sewer!) for lunch. Man made rock breaks were spaced off shore all along the coast. A rest stop warning sign gave information about Tsunami evacuation areas. Around 4pm we reached the Kenrokuen Garden, once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle. One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, it features 6 aspects found in outstanding Japanese Gardens: Spaciousness; Quiet seclusion; Artifice (artificiality); Antique appearance; Abundant water; and Fine prospects (borrowed landscapes). Kenrokuen is on a hill overlooking Kanazawa. Complete with lovely pools, the oldest fountain in Japan, quaint bridges, a fossilised bamboo water basin, paths meandering through the peaceful grounds. Trees scarred from turpentine collection for aviation fuel in WW2, others propped or protectively bound, azaleas neatly manicured, swathes of blue iris hugging waterways, gardeners discretely doing maintenance...Beautiful! Photos to come....

15 May 2018

A leisure day! Kazumi was very busy sorting out people's itineraries: The thousands of vermillion coloured Torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, going up the Kyoto Tower, or watching the street procession from the Imperial Palace celebrating the yearly May 15th Aoi Matsuri Festival ... Mum, Les , Sal and I wanted to visit the Kyoto Handicraft Centre, hoping to see traditional handicrafts. We had to catch a couple of trains there. The Kyoto Train station was larger than anything previously experienced. Buying the correct ticket wasn't a straightforward exercise, but several lovely Japanese people helped us. The words "sumimassen" - sorry; and "arigato gozimas" - thankyou, certainly got a good workout! We enjoyed looking at the handicrafts in building 1 then had lunch at a quaint nearby cafe opposite the Heian Jingu Shrine. Afterwards we looked at the handicrafts in building 2, made some purchases, then took a taxi back to the Karasuma Kyoto Hotel.

14 May 2018

The day continues with a Maiko dance performance and traditional Japanese meal, sitting on cushions on the floor. Not the best treatment for old/sore bodies at the end of a long day!!
Then came the Heian Jingu Shrine, with a Torii gate almost 25 metres high. It was built in 1895 for the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto's founding as the capital of Japan. Starting outside the shrine there was a cleansing of hands ritual which was very meditative. Following that we went into the gardens. They were almost beyond words, rated as being the most exquisite and authentic of Japanese gardens in the world. I LOVED them and would say that this visit was one of the highlights of the trip. Everywhere you look there was a 'picture room'. This garden is noted for its 4 'rooms' and cherry blossom.The blossom was finished but the gardens were delightfully tranquil. I for one was glad not to be amongst the vast numbers who come to specifically see them.
The Kinkakuji or Golden Pavilion is.... Golden, of course, as it is covered in gold leaf on the upper two floors. The walls of the first floor are made of white plaster and wooden beams. There were 3 stages of building a) the Shinden style of an aristocratic palace b) the Buke style of samurai/warrior and c) the Zen Buddhist style. It was originally built in 1397, but was burnt down by a disgruntled priest in 1950 and rebuilt in 1955. It is very beautiful, (utzukushi), with crowds of people passing through. Many groups of school children were visiting and being instructed in the history of this place. Very glad to be here after the cherry blossom blooms as it is crowded enough on this gorgeous day.
Les in the bus raring to go. Off to Kyoto today, amazed at the good weather since all the rain yesterday. It is 65 km from Osaka with a smaller population of 1.4 million cf 2.7 mill. The two cities have very different dialects, food and lifestyles. Kyoto is always crowded and difficult for buses to navigate. Saw a sign on a building saying Bitame Dental Clinic. Who bit who? Visit the Ryoanji Temple and Zen Garden where rocks are displayed in ornate carefully raked gravel surrounds. The small stone basin with water continuously flowing from the bamboo tube is inscribed with 4 symbols meaning "I only sufficiency know". It is a philosophy of contentment, (one already has what one needs) but most people passing by are only looking at the gardens and miss seeing and understanding its importance. The work that goes into pruning specific trees is immense. Japanese gardeners also work to protect the trees from winter snows by wrapping the trunks or using huge wooden poles to prop up branches.

13 May 2018

On our travels today we saw an amusing sign at an eye clinic: "Glasses make the man's image and tell eye life"!! We stayed at the Osaka International Convention Centre. Lucky Sal and I - having a corner room with views over the river towards the Dojimao Bridge. Wet things hanging all over the place! Even things in the back pack in the front pocket were wet. Reminder to self to put things in plastic bags there in future if it rains a lot! A charming robot stood in the main reception area responding to bemused/amused guests. The Gourmet Boutique Melissa was also located there with a great display of flowers. In search of the nearest 7 Eleven (yes, for munchies), we passed a shop window with a bridal dress and teddy bears. The two later dresses are definitely NOT Mother of the bride outfits!
I put my arms partially around a huge timber support running vertically right through the building. It was over 700 years old when harvested. Dad would have loved the skill of the woodworkers: amazing joinery throughout, handmade nails in the flooring... Japan's own wood resources have been reduced. They now import suitable wood from Canada and Thailand, but with forward planning have begun planting trees for use in 200 or so years! Pictured is a Dogwood, very pretty and quite a common sight. Himeji is 6 stories tall - with only one opening window on each level, for escape purposes (or cleaning). Wooden wall panels can slip aside acting as hiding places for defenders if needs be. Carp, tails upwards symbolise water splasing on the roof in case of fire. Himeji was supplied by 33 wells. Not many photos because of the rain. We all have wet feet and clothes. On to Osaka for the night. By the way I have decided that I would like a Japanese toilet (modern of course - not a pit one)!!
Raining copiously, sounding magical on the umbrella. Thank goodness we saw Korakuen yesterday. We had a one and three quarter hour drive from Okayama to Himeji Castle, followed by a very long walk from where the bus parked to the place where Kazumi handed out the entrance tickets. Himeji is rightly designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is Japan's most beautiful surviving feudal castle, having never been taken over. No wonder as it is amazingly devious in its layout, with many a trap for unsuspecting invaders. We climed to the top floor, the stairs becoming increasingly steeper and doorways smaller. Talk about intimidating! I think that the producers of Play School got the inspiration for their windows from here - the openings for the defenders to shoot through were triangular, circular, square and oblong...

12 May 2018

On the way to the Okayama Kokusai Hotel we were amused when the bus caught a red traffic light right outside a dog grooming business. A Shitsu was standing quite patiently on a pedestal while it was being groomed and looked to be enjoying the process very much. I had trouble sleeping and was up at 2.30am sitting on the broad window ledge with a view overlooking Okayama. The night lights were very beautiful and eventually I was tired enough to sleep.
Change of plans due to bad weather forecast for tomorrow. Instead of travelling from Miyajima straight to the hotel at Okayama, we are visiting the Korakuen gardens, a beautiful landscape garden and Okayama's main attraction. Constructed in 1687 it opened to the public in 1884 at the end of the feudal era. The gardens were beautiful in late afternoon light. Paths meandered through tranquil settings besides lakes and waterways, over small arched bridges, and up to higher vantage points. Wooden pergolas supported old wisteria plants, bamboo was skilfully lashed together forming attractive fences, large rocks were strategically placed in their settings, and carp and turtles swam in the waters. Red maples and clumps of purple iris added to the beauty. I heard a bird singing and swear it was saying "No go, Goo - gle"!! Swastika motifs were on some buildings - in Buddhism they are a symbol of a vision of God. Japanese maps have swastikas for Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines.
Miyajima moments: Mango surprise Max, fossilised wood, part of the shrine, saki storage drums, lunch!On a wedding kimono the family crest is dyed in white, symbolising purity. Kimono etiquette requires you to dress with the left side draped over the right. Death is signified if done the other way! Red is the colour of life and energy. It drives away evil, which is why Torii gates are painted red. Children's toys are often red coloured, to protect them. Kazumi told us that every morning at the Buddhist house altar an offering of rice and tea is made. At the Shinto Shrine the offering is of water, salt and saki. Shin means 'gods' and do/to means 'the way'. So Shinto (or Shindo) means the way to the gods. The Miyajima Shrine has 3 goddesses.
Japan(ese) travellers. Saw retired people raking up fallen leaves in the main avenue of Shin-Kobe. Phrase for today: Q: Genki des ka? A: Genki des. Ie How are you? OK.
From Hiroshima we took a bus along the coast glimpsing plenty of oyster beds in the water. Doug would love the many differently constructed bridges in Japan. Japan would be a great place for hydrology engineers Mel. In several places there appeared to be large areas surrounded by enormously tall nets strung between struts. I thought they were baseball stadiums but later found out that they were golf driving ranges! Enjoyed ferry ride over to Miyajima to see the famous Torii gate. Made of cedar, there are stones inside to weigh it down. The cedar wood is replaced when decayed and this is the 8th generation of the gate.The tide was high enough that the Torii gate was surrounded by water. We were lucky eniugh to see a wedding and a baptism at the Itsukushima Shrine. The deer on the island were ready to eat anything including papers or bags carried by unsuspecting tourists. They were moulting so not at their prettiest. An eagle flew very low directly over me which was a thrill.
So many Japanese people with dogs. Little dogs. Dogs in bags, dogs in trolleys, dogs in arms....
Phrases for today: Arigato gozimas - Thankyou Ohayu gozimas - Good morning Sumimassen - sorry Travelling by bus can be frustrating because of the many barriers put up over bridges or besides the roads, blocking tantalising views. They are for sound protection for nearby residents. We saw bamboo forests along the way and cedar trees too. Many people are allergic to the cedar pollen or other pollens, which is why they use masks (not for air pollution as we assume). With the shift of many young people to the larger cities, both the bamboo and cedar forests are not so well tended and are becoming invasive.

11 May 2018

Today the weather is just 'out of the box'. Travelled to Shin-Kobe to catch the Shinkansen to Hiroshima. Shin means new so Shin-Kobe is new Kobe. Amazed at the size of Osaka's industrial area by the coast. It went for kilometres. The geography of Honshu is so different from that in Australia. Towns nestle against the foothills which rise up steeply. Everything is so green. We saw little cemetery plots behind housing on the edge of the slopes. Usable land is very much at a premium. Camphor trees often line the streets. Really enjoyed the ride on the Shinkansen, but it was a bit nerve wracking lining up and hoping everyone got on in time! Arriving in Hiroshima we took a tram (streetcar) ride to the Peace Memorial Park. On such a beautiful day it is difficult to comprehend the horrific destruction that took place here on August 6th 1945. Saw the Atomic Bomb Dome and visited the Peace Memorial Museum. Sal had a fall and injured her foot and hand. Luckily we could use a wheelchair.

10 May 2018

Mum and Les and I at Hong Kong airport. It was a long flight from Melbourne and we would really like to stay here tonight. However there is a quick change over and off we head to Osaka, Japan arriving after 9pm. Osaka's night lights were just beautiful. Arriving at Kansai Airport we met our Japanese guide Kazumi and were then taken to the Stargate Hotel. Sal and I have a room on the 54th floor facing out to the airport.
We have got our luggage booked in and are off to find a coffee for Sal. I made it after the drama of last night!! What a relief.

9 May 2018

Have a wonderful trip! Thinking of you and can’t wait to hear and see all of your adventures!