Australia, Japan · 20 Days · 93 Moments · September 2017

Leila 's adventure in Japan

7 October 2017

Touched down back in Melbourne!

6 October 2017

It's cloudy and wet on our last day in Japan. Even Mt Fuji was hiding her lovely face. Luckily, we took advantage of an earlier train which gave us the chance to finally experience both stand up sushi, and stand up soba! Oh, and of course, a Mont Blanc for the final trip aboard the Narita Express to the airport.

4 October 2017

Kaoru suggested going to the Council Tower which operates a free observation deck from the 24th floor. We then took a stroll to the Harbour where the Maritime Museum and Port Towers are located.
Once we checked in at our accommodation in Kobe, we rushed straight to the Harushika Sake Brewery Museum. We then spent some time walking through the train station where we found a small version of Noodle Street (the above ground version is about 10km long), plus I snapped a photo of the price of fuel!) The top price is for regular) .
Checked out this morning after a delicious breakfast at our accommodation, and then it was off to Kobe by train (via Osaka). The area we are staying in Kobe is a little posh. There seems to be a lot of finance companies around us. However as this is a port town, there is also a lot of industry and big trucks a little further out (like Yarraville!)

3 October 2017

We continued to walk through the surrounding streets looking at the various shops, before we found another shop that served tastings of many different types of sake.
Next, we walked to Harushika Sake Brewery, a small, local brewery, for their tastings (500 yen pp and includes a 'souvenir' sake cup!). We then sampled their pickles, made using a by-product of the sake brewing process, as well as some of the brewery's sake ice cream!
We then went to see the big Buddha, which funnily enough, we worked out that we had actually visited before on a day trip!! While on the way there, we stopped in at a rather modern looking building amongst the ancient temples, and Michael had a demo of some new seismic stabilisation technology! After that, we went and had a quick lunch at a quirky little cafe as the next stop was the sake brewery.
Today we dropped in at the Visitor Information Centre to ask for a suggested walking route, then visited a Five Story Pagoda & Nara Park where we saw LOTS of deer!

2 October 2017

After we finished at the gardens which included some matcha tea to enjoy the scenery, I changed out of my wet clothes and we left Himeji bound for Nara, via a quick 7 minute interchange in Osaka.
Few more highlights from Himeji castle (I took WAY more photos than can be seen here), then we went for a stroll to the nearby gardens for a Conga Eel lunch. There were some beautifully landscaped areas here including manicured trees, ponds and flowers.
Earlier today we went to visit the very beautiful and very old Himeji castle. It was raining pretty hard most of the day so we were both saturated pretty quickly. As the Japanese would say, despite this, we enjoyed the "rain scene". From another site: "Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo in Japanese) in Himeji, Hyogo, Japan is a castle in the middle of the city of Himeji. Built on a mountain, the castle can be seen all around Himeji. It has the nickname 'White Heron Castle' due to its pale white colouration. It is one of Japan's 'Three Big Castles', has over 83 rooms, and is one of the most visited sites in Japan. The castle was built somewhere between 1333 and 1346 (originally named Himeyama Castle) as a home for the lord of Himeji. The castle's most unique feature is the maze that surrounds the castle in the dense wooding."

1 October 2017

Today for Breast Cancer Awareness, we stumbled upon a L'OrΓ©al event where they lit up the famous "white castle" in pink just for tonight! Afterwards we stopped in for a drink at a Scottish pub. It was funny to see Japanese people in kilts!
Found this tiny okonimiyaki restaurant in Himeji for an afternoon snack. When we walked in to see if they had space, the owner basically reorganised the entire restaurant just to fit us in! And, it was really delicious!!
While going for an evening stroll through Himeji, we walked past a marquee as they were packing up, and Michael noticed a couple of people struggling to pick up a freezer to pack into a truck. So, he jumped in to lend a hand!! I'll share the video via YouTube! We also saw another supercar (a Lamborghini), plus more "scary" construction work mascots!
We have arrived in Himeji. The Dormy Inn we are staying in is really nice for the price. It even has an onsen on the upper levels that is open 3pm - 10am, and offers complimentary ramen for guests between 9pm - 11pm! We are only here for 1 night and plan to visit Himeji Castle tomorrow, also known as the white castle. I have uploaded some videos to YouTube, taken from the shinkansen however as the train is travelling so fast, I've tried shooting these using "slow motion" which slows the video down to approximately a third of the speed. They're still really fast though! These will appear on my YouTube channel, shortly.

30 September 2017

We visited Kaoru's sister's family for dinner. Mio's house is affectionately known as Mio Bar due to the lavish spreads of cuisine and drinks that are always generously on offer. We are were also delighted to briefly see Kaoru's other sister Kozue, and her family too! Mio's husband Yoichi also invited us to see his Ferrari!
Out and about in Ginza for a quick walk around. This street is closed to traffic on weekends and is lined with up market department stores and boutiques.

29 September 2017

Night out in Roppongi with friends of Daz and Kaoru, an American man and his Japanese wife.
Leaving Sapporo today, bound for Haneda Airport, Tokyo. But first, took a quick walk around the fish market which is quite small and sampled crab and other fresh fish for breakfast. The aerial photos were taken coming into Tokyo.
Sapporo airport...

28 September 2017

Dinner and drinks out in Roppongi with friends of Daz's, an American man and his Japanese wife took us out.
Back in Sopporo after dinner, we walked around and had a look at some shops, including a visit to 'Namco', the Japanese equivalent of what we used to call "Timezone". The first two pictures show some kitchen utensils, often used by Japanese mothers to make lunch for their kids. Specifically, they're used to make rice & tofu etc. look "fun" (!)
Few more photos from the Daisetsuzan National Park, before heading back to Sapporo. We stopped off in a 'roadside diner' for teppanyaki lunch on the way.
Views from Mt Kurodake this morning - Part 4
Views from Mt Kurodake this morning - Part 3
Views from Mt Kurodake this morning - Part 2 (at 1.32km up!)

27 September 2017

Views from Mt Kurodake this morning - Part 1
Here's some views from our "onsen" accommodation where we are staying tonight. The tour we are on is called "The First Autumn Leaves". Also enjoyed a late night onsen. At a couple of points, I had the outdoor tubs to myself and just listened to the rain echoing in the trees. I wondered if this is what Kaoru described to me earlier this evening, as the Japanese phrase "wabi sabi": a beauty that can be witnessed in simplicity (also a very simplified definition in English).
On the road to Daisetsuzan, in a tour bus. We are the only "gaijin" (foreigners) and the youngest people on the bus! Few of these pics were taken while driving though Fukagawa-shi

26 September 2017

A couple of views of the main Sapporo Train Station. We also went for a stroll around the food court in Daimaru which is located in the train station (like we used to have in Melbourne!). I've also included a photo of some fish cake products - Japanese people love fish cake and queue up to buy it!
A tour of the Sapporo Beer Factory!

25 September 2017

When there is dangerous roadwork or hazards on the road or pavement, they use these little beacons to warn people. It's almost as if the more potentially dangerous the situation, the "cuter" the mascots! We spied these on an evening stroll around Sapporo.
We caught another train to visit the delightful seaside town of Otaru. While there, we caught up with Kaoru's niece (of her 2nd cousin), whom also happened to be visiting Otaru at the same time. Kaoru has not seen her since she (her niece) was born! She is pictured in the photo of the two young girls near the historic train lines, standing on the left. Interestingly, the girl on the right is from Singapore, and I found out she graduated from Raffles a few years ago. I was proud to say my father had also done the same!
Kaoru took us to visit the Nikka Whisky Distillery in Yoichi today. To get there, we caught a "rural" train to the town, located about 45km north west of Sapporo.

24 September 2017

We stumbled upon an "Oktoberfest", as we were on our way to the observation deck at the Sapporo TV Tower, which was opened in 1957. We were too full to have dinner so we went and bought some light snacks from the 7-11. In Japan, the 7-11 stores are popular with the locals for eating snacks or meals, at any time of the day!
Just arrived in Sapporo, coincidentally for the Autumn Food Festival. It goes for literally blocks and blocks!
All aboard! Next stop: Sapporo. It's a 4 hour train journey and we'll be stopping in Sapporo for a few days.
The port of Hakodate
A visit to the Hakodate Morning Market. Squid is a big speciality here. and check out the price of the rock melons. Some are over $60 EACH!
Breakfast Ramen in the market

23 September 2017

A street sign in Hakodate
Carn the Tiges! πŸ―πŸ…πŸ…πŸ― Having a couple of celebratory drinks in Hakodate.
Back on the "road" (railway tracks). Today we are catching 3 different Shinkansen to Hakkodate in the North where it will be colder. The maximum speed you see here is slow in comparison to the proper 'super fast' bullet trains!
A quick visit to Kaoru's parents' field, to see where all their fresh produce comes from. There are many large persimmon trees, kiwifruit vines, cherry tomatoes and also another fruit that looks like a soursop! I just found out it's called "akebi" and is native to northern Japan.
Lovely sights in Kaoru's parents' garden πŸπŸŒ²πŸƒπŸ‚

22 September 2017

Dinner at Kaoru's parents house, beginning with pike, that was expertly cooked over charcoal
Wonderful hospitality and an Autumnal spread from Kaoru's parents in Nasu. This was breakfast! πŸπŸŒ²πŸƒπŸ‚
Enjoyed a wonderful dinner thanks to Kaoru's parents. So. Much. Food. Check out the size of those grapes! I have no idea how much these ones were but we saw similar ones for sale in Tokyo for $20-$30!! They are only available during autumn.
A visit to the Royal Brewery in Nasu - they brew beer for the Japanese royal family. The Emperor lives in the same area as Kaoru's parents!
Making miso in Kurodahara, near Nasu
Off to Nasu today, to make our own miso and visit Kaoru's parents for the night. This is a photo of two Shinkansen carriages, and they are attached at the nose!

21 September 2017

This is how we roll, late night planning for tomorrow
A few drinks and some snacks around Shinjuku...this is the area where we stayed last trip.
A view from inside a train station (Yoyogi)
Go karting around Tokyo!
We went to visit a Danish beer Cafe in Shibuya after the go karts
This morning we went to a place near Roppongi and got to drive gokarts around the city streets of Tokyo! While wearing silly hats. Lots of fun!
Look what I found/saw around our hotel this morning!

20 September 2017

Night cap!
An amazing feast tonight at Daz and Kaoru's restaurant, Tai Kai in Fujisawa
Today I went to buy wrapping paper and I asked for it in Japanese (hososhi). I was pretty happy with myself until Kaoru told me I could have also asked for "lapping paper"!!
A visit to Enoshima Island. In the 4th photo, you can just make out Mt Fuji in the background of the skies!!
Sights around Kamakura
At the Bamboo forest and temple in Kamakura
The train station at Kamakura
Ice cream stop at the train station
For breakfast today, we went to this traditional "soup stock" place, located within the train station. There are many many places to stop for food in the station. Some of them have no seats, for example stand up sushi and stand up ramen. You almost don't need to ever leave the station!

19 September 2017

After the Sumo, Kaoru took us to a Michelin star place that is run by a former sumo wrestler's wife and that serves the dish (chunko nabe), that sumo wrestler's eat.
Panoramic shot of the Sumo stadium
More sumo photos
At the Sumo. Also, follow the link below for a short video of the competition area
Final pics from the Edo Museum
More from the Edo Museum
At the Edo Museum
What do you think this ad poster in the subway is for? . . . . . . Real estate agents. Of course it is.
This is only a portion of the Tokyo subway map, and Kaoru says the Melbourne system is much more confusing and complicated (!)
The temple near Tsukiji Market
At the Tsukiji Fish Market (not so early this time!) Some seasonal autumn produce in the form of special Japanese Mushrooms. Also, check out the size of the oysters!
Follow the link below to see a time lapse video of the end of peak hour at Shinagawa Station:

18 September 2017

Back to Shinagawa. This is the intersection between the Shinagawa Station and our hotel. It's usually really busy here but today was a public holiday (Shinagawa is predominantly a business area). Check out the advertisement for a holiday suggestion!
Visiting the Niku Meat Fest which happens to finish today! It is held at Komazawa Olympic Park, where the Olympics were once held. Note the Information sign with the picture of the globe - it's meant to look like the marbling of fat through meat. According to that sign, Australia is a nice chunk of fat!
Walking around Akihabara...time to stop and recharge with a massage!
Train station at Yanake. For some reason unbeknownst to us, there was about 50 people and children waiting on this bridge to watch the trains.
People still live in these houses today
Taking a break from the heat with some soba noodles
Stopping for drinks and snacks at Yanake
Walking around Shinagawa station
First breakfast
The view from the 21st floor of the hotel room. At 7:30am, its already 26 degrees celsius and we are due for a top of 32 today. Yesterday a typhoon came through (it felt just like a long, heavy rain storm), but apparently it means the weather the next day is generally hot, dry and clear. Kaoru is taking us somewhere for breakfast today then we are going to a "Meat Festival"!

17 September 2017

Late night walk around Shinagawa, for supper with Daz & Kaoru.
Arrived at Narita Airport safe & sound. Waiting for the shuttle bus to take us to our hotel and meet our friends Daz and Kaoru and it's very humid and warm.
Waiting at the airport, with "brekky beers"