Published: December 1st 2011November 30th 2011
We've been busy lately, racing around the country using Japan's amazing train network. And thanks to our Japan Rail pass, we can use the trains as much as we want.
So we'll start with Kyoto where we really only spent one day of tourism despite spending three nights in the city. That's probably sacrilege considering Kyoto is considered by many to be the best city in the whole country. We have our reasons for this which we'll get to shortly. For the day we had booked 8 hours of private guide service to show us around which was apparently enough to take us to 3 or 4 highlights. Just a small slice of what Kyoto has to offer. So we started out with the most famous site in Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji temple or the Golden Pavilion followed by the Nijo Castle. This took us to lunch time where we went for some awesome Ramen noodles. By this point we were kind of burning out for the day so decided to aim for just one more site, and an afternoon coffee break. The last site we chose was the Gion district which is the largest Geisha district in Kyoto. We saw a
few Geishas wandering around but they were pretty camera shy without their make-up.
Now we get to the reason why we decided to cut our time short in Kyoto. The Osaka Aquarium came highly recommended and it was one of the things that we most wanted to see in Japan. Luckily Osaka is less than 20 minutes away from Kyoto by high speed train. The aquarium is absolutely huge and it totally blew away our expectations. The biggest highlight was the whale shark as we could not imagine an aquarium built to hold such a huge creature. Surrounding the whale shark were also several species of shark as well as two manta rays. The other big highlight for us was the King Penguins as we'd never seen them before and it's a dream to one day take one of those pricey Antarctica cruises.
Our next destination was way down South about 500km away to the city of Fukuoka. This only took us just over 3 hours by those amazing Shinkansen trains we can't stop talking about. Why did we go all this way? Sumo! We were lucky enough to time our visit to coincide with one of the
And the little guy won!
6 Sumo Grand tournaments that are held each year. Even better, we managed to get tickets for the final day of the competition. It was a most interesting experience. The competitors would make their way into the ring once the announcer sang their introductions. Then they would go through a ritual where they would square up and stare each other down, do some high leg kicks, stare some more, get up and walk back to their corner, drink some water, toss some salt, and go back to square up for some more staring. This is repeated several more times for about 5 minutes (supposedly to get the crowd energized...). Then the ref gives the signal and the match is over in about 10 seconds or less. Some really good matches went for nearly 30 seconds. Anyways, we had fun with it and got to see the Yokozuna claim his prize for winning the tournament.
Finally we made our way all the way back another 600+km up to Nagoya where we had arranged for a tour of the Toyota factory. A really worthwhile experience as we got to wander through some technology concept displays and the show-room before getting to
tour the factory assembly line. What an amazing operation that is. If we were in the market for a new car, this was certainly a way of getting us interested in the Toyota brand.
Whew, all of that in 8 days. Talk about a busy week!
There are more photos below