Tuesday 1st June – Nagasaki
I am still not feeling 100%!a(MISSING)lthough my eyes seem much better but we have decided to stay in Nagasaki to give me more time to recover, our intention was to move on today. We had a Japanese style breakfast in a bento box, fish, fruit, rice and miso soup, it was very nice although we didn’t know what everything in the box was. Quite different but I wouldn’t like to eat it every day. After breakfast, we purchased a tram pass from the information centre in the bus station Y500 ($6) which gives us unlimited tram rides for the whole day.
Our first stop, of course, was the Atomic Bomb Hypocentre, the exact spot where the atom bomb exploded on 9th
August 1945 at 1102am, there is a memorial park here now with statues and ruins where the city’s cathedral once stood. The place was crawling with school children, obviously on an excursion, so it wasn’t exactly peaceful, but we still took some photographs before visiting the fascinating Atomic Bomb museum. We were horrified to find the place crawling with school tour groups, which made our visit to the museum rather noisy as
they were running around everywhere with total disrespect. The museum had photographs (one awful one of a horse L); replicas of “Fat Boy” the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki and various artefacts such as clothing, melted bottles and twisted steel. The museum cost Y100 ($1.30) to go in and took about an hour to go around.
After our museum visit we jumped back on the tram and set off for the two temples we wanted to visit. The first temple, Kofuku-ji, was really nice, so tidy and neat compared to Chinese temples, tatami screens, mats and pretty gardens, not a rat in sight. The second temple, Sofuku-ji, was supposed to be more impressive, but looked slightly more Chinese. We then walked along a very clean river full of huge goldfish (carp) and turtles to see the Spectacle Bridge, which was supposed to resemble eyeglasses (maybe it did if there was more water in the river); again, we were plagued by children in their sailor outfits. We then jumped back on the tram to the Site of the Martyrdom of 26 Saints, where 26 Christians were crucified in 1597. Again, there were school children everywhere, standing in the way when
you want to take a photo, they are rude and obnoxious, quite different to the Chinese children who are sweet and genuine by comparison, the Japs are just smart asses. After an ice-cream, we stopped off and bought some takeaway Y420 ($5) beef with onions, which we ate at the hostel. I had a great day sightseeing today! Wednesday 2nd June – Nagasaki - Hiroshima
Bit of a noisy night in the hostel, people turned up just before curfew at 11pm and then talked, turned lights on etc. and kept us awake. I banged on the wall to stop them talking while Tony resorted to earplugs. Woke up to the alarm at 630am (which we let ring on purpose) and were at the bus station just before 730am, our bus to Fukuoka leaves at 8am. The journey took two hours, and once we arrived in Fukuoka we caught another bus to Hiroshima. Unfortunately, we got off at the wrong bus station, the local instead of the long distance, so we then had to catch the subway to get to the right one. We arrived at the bus station just before 11am only to find there were no more
buses to Hiroshima until 4pm as we had missed the 1020am bus. We could have cried, if we had stayed on the bus and gotten off at the right station we probably would have made the 1020am and been on our way to Hiroshima now.
We then decided to catch a bus to Yamaguchi and then catch a bus to Hiroshima from there. To get to Fukuoka it cost us Y2500 ($32), then to Yamaguchi a further Y3300 ($42), we can’t use our Japan Rail Pass until the 4th
June, so trains are out as buses are cheaper for us now. The bus left at 1130am and we arrived in Yamaguchi at 3pm. We tried to sleep most of the way, as even though the countryside is very pretty, there is something tiring about travelling, probably the mental strain. Our next bus to Hiroshima left at 410pm and cost Y2450 ($31), it has been an expensive day in terms of cost and travel time.
We arrived in Hiroshima just after 7pm, we rang a hostel and tried to find it by catching a tram and following directions in the Let’s Go. We thought we were lost until a
Japanese man we asked for directions returned saying he had found it and pointed across the street, lucky he did because we would have walked straight past, it didn’t look anything like a hostel but more like an upmarket hotel. Our room is great with a nice big bath, we even have kimonos to wear and it only costs Y3130 ($40) each, I think we may like it here. Thursday 3rd June – Hiroshima
I woke up at 4.45am to brilliant sunshine, the sun rises very early in the land of the rising sun. We got up about 8am on this absolutely beautiful day in Hiroshima. Our first stop was a five minute walk to the Atomic Dome. This is where the atomic bomb “Little Boy” dropped from the Enola Gay exploded on 6th
August 1945 at 815am, directly over the Industrial Promotion Hall. The building is left in ruins and is a poignant reminder of the destruction inflicted on the city, we took lots of photos here. Then it was on to the Atomic Bomb Museum, once again it was crawling with irritating schoolchildren, they had a bomb survivor as a tour guide, whom they totally ignored,
Tony said: “I wish I could listen to him”. The Hiroshima museum was much bigger and better than Nagasaki, some of the exhibits were gruesome, people’s fingernails and tongues, but it was fascinating and very well done. Entry to the museum cost about Y50 (.60c) and it took about one and half hours to go around.
After the museum, we jumped on a tram that took us to Hiroshima Castle (Hiroshima-jo). Entrance cost Y320 ($4) and although the castle has been rebuilt (it was incinerated by the A-bomb), it’s a faithful reproduction and was well worth the visit, inside was a museum of artefacts and models showing how the castle was defended.
We then caught a tram to the ferry terminal as we are visiting Miya-jima, which was just a short ferry ride across the water. The ferry cost was included in our tram pass, so we just got straight on board, they run every 15 minutes or so. Our main goal on the island was to visit the ancient shrine Itsukushima-jinja, which is also known as the floating shrine, as when the tide comes in, the bottom of the columns are submerged. We had also read that
there are deer on the island and I hoped that we would see one, I needn’t have worried as soon as we had disembarked from the ferry, there were deer everywhere! For Y200 ($2.50) you could buy deer food (some kind of wafer) and it wasn’t long before I was swamped. Tony thought it was hilarious and while he was busy taking photos, a deer drank his coke! It was so funny, like feeding the baby goats at the Adelaide Zoo. We went through two packets of deer food before moving on to the shrine. The shrine was impressive in size and colour (bright red), although the tide was out, it didn’t detract from its beauty. Unfortunately, Miya-jima Island was also invaded by school tour groups, but luckily they were fairly spread out, so they didn’t annoy us too much. Miya-jima Island is very pretty, much of it is nature reserve, but the village itself is quaint with little shops and restaurants.
We walked around for about an hour, dodging schoolchildren and deer, and just enjoying the views. Lots of Japanese were collecting cockles on the beach, we walked across the sand and were delighted to find so much
sea life in the rock pools, hermit crabs plus normal crabs and shells still with the animal inside, we spent time watching them before boarding the ferry back to Hiroshima. On the half hour tram ride back to the city, we sat opposite a couple from Adelaide who were staying in our hotel, Tony lent them our Let’s Go Japan book and then spent the rest of the night worrying if he would ever see it again!! (It returned about 9.30pm). We found an Internet café and spent about an hour doing our emails before grabbing our dinner at the 7-11 down the road, they do the best salads. Friday 4th June – Hiroshima – Himeji – Kobe - Osaka
Today our JR Rail Pass starts and we have unlimited train travel for seven days on all JR lines and all but one Shinkansen. We are making the most of this, as we caught the Shinkansen to Himeji, our reason being Himeji-jo, so after arriving in Himeji just after 10am, we put our large backpacks in a locker at the train station Y600 ($7.50) before setting off on foot to the castle. After a brief stop at a
French bakery, we saw the castle looming on the horizon. Himeji-jo is the only original castle left in Japan; all others have been restored, making it unique. It cost Y720 ($9) entrance which included entry to the attached gardens Koko-en. It took over an hour to go through the castle (it was a pain as you had to keep taking your shoes off) but we both thought the castle was fantastic, although most of the rooms were empty, it still gave a good insight into how things were back then. As the castle is made entirely from wood, it is very beautiful, the polished wooden floorboards and narrow steep steps are a test in bare feet, but all part of the experience. There are stone coffins in the outside walls, several people are buried there. As we had spent a lot of time in the castle, we didn’t have much time in the Koko-en (gardens). What we saw was tidy and tranquil, a typical Japanese garden, very pretty. Then it was back on the Shinkansen and on to Kobe, where we wanted to visit the Earthquake Museum.
Once again at Kobe train station we left our backpacks in lockers
and set off on foot. It wasn’t that long a walk; it was just a hot day which made it seem longer. It took just over 10 minutes to get to the museum and we made it in time to watch a movie they screened at 3pm. The movie was a graphic depiction of the 1995 earthquake that hit Kobe, where over 5000 people died. It was really good, as it had bright lights and the whole theatre seemed to shake with the effects. After that movie we were then shown another about a little girl whose sister had perished in the quake and how her family adjusted post-quake. This was interesting as we had headphones that provided an English translation. After that it was on to an exhibition room where you were given a hand-held pc to help you understand the exhibits. It took a further hour to go around the museum and cost Y400 ($5).
Then it was on to Osaka by Shinkansen, we estimated that it would take two hours but our tickets said 15 minutes! These trains are incredible, when we were on the platform at Himeji, a Shinkansen came through the station without stopping,
it was unbelievable, neither of us have ever seen anything go so fast in our lives, F1 cars included.
We arrived in Osaka just after 530pm, and this is where our troubles began, as we couldn’t find any accommodation, we rang just about every place in our price range in the guide book, but most of the hostels were full or only had same sex dorms available (I refused). After much frustration, Tony found a business hotel which had costly rooms available at Y4700 ($60) each. Our next trial was finding the place, we had to catch the metro about five stops and walk a fair distance with our backpacks, at the end of the day when you are tired, this can be quite taxing. Finally, after pushing our way through Friday night end of the working week workers, we found the hotel. At least it’s a nice room even if the price is steep. Saturday 5th June – Osaka
We overslept this morning waking at 8.30am it was my fault as had a bad sore throat in the night and had Tony up looking for aspirin. We checked out and then booked our Nagoya and Tokyo
accommodation in advance so everything has worked out okay. Tony’s phone card has come in so handy. We then put our bags in the locker at Osaka train station, we got the last big locker and crammed in both our backpacks and then our daypacks as well, we thought the locker would explode. We then jumped on the JR train to the Universal Studio’s Theme Park. It only took 10 minutes to get there and everyone got off at the same stop so we had a feeling it was going to be busy.
It cost Y5500 ($70) to get in which is expensive for us, but we were expecting it and were prepared to pay. Universal Studios is set up to look like parts of the USA, so has famous streets that you would find in San Francisco, Hollywood etc. but the main attraction are the rides. The first one we went on was the “ET: The Ride” and we lined up outside for about 20 minutes and were devastated to have a ONE HOUR wait inside, and after all that it was a bit anti-climactic and childish, although very well done. The worst thing is that once you
commit yourself to a ride there is no backing out, once you are in a queue, you’re in a queue!
Next we waited in a queue for the “Terminator” ride, this was about a half hour wait and we were given 3D glasses, the first part of this was absolute crap, with a neurotic over-acting Japanese woman going on about cyborgs (we think) but we were then led to a movie theatre where we watched a brilliant interactive 3D film with all the Terminator characters, it really assaulted your senses, and you experienced heat, pins and needles and cool 3D effects.
After that we lined up for 70 minutes to go on the “Spiderman” ride, the waiting in line is excruciating and we both said that it had better be worth it, it was, it was fantastic, again lots of 3D effects (Spiderman jumped on our car) you were subject to rain and heat, all with the car spinning around and feeling like it was dropping from a great height. We both would have gone on it again had the queue been shorter, it was that good.
We then had a burger in a restaurant on “Fisherman’s
Wharf” and as it was past 2pm so we decided one more ride then call it a day. As the queue times for “Jurassic Park” and “Jaws” were well over 80 minutes each, we opted for “Backdraft” which had a queue time of 30 minutes. This wasn’t even a ride but merely a room that they set on fire, quite hot! Bit disturbing to watch Ritchie Cunningham and Kurt Russell talking in Japanese! We then walked around the rest of the park and looked in a few shops before catching the train back to Osaka Shinkansen station, we enjoyed the theme park but there was too much waiting. Caught the Shinkansen to Nagoya, but we couldn’t be bothered doing anymore walking so caught a taxi to our hostel. This hostel is expensive Y4147 ($53) but we are getting closer to Tokyo. We had dinner at a Korean restaurant, it was reasonably priced and very tasty. Sunday 6th June – Nagoya – Matsumoto – Nagano – Tokyo
We caught the local train to Matsumoto, boarding at 9am and arriving at 11am, if it had been a bullet train it would have taken 20 minutes! I enjoyed the train ride
we travelled through some pretty countryside on the way to Matsumoto-jo, our last castle in Japan. We boarded a bus outside the train station with all these old ladies who were also going to the castle. The bus only went around the corner and there was the castle (we then decided to avoid the bus and walk back afterwards!!). The castle was impressive, smaller than Himeji-jo but still nice, again we had to take our shoes off.
Back on the train and about an hour’s ride to Nagano, home of the 1998 winter Olympics. We wanted to go to the Olympic Museum, so after a 20 minute bus ride Y300 ($3.80) with a grumpy driver, we arrived at our destination. We had arrived at “M-Wave”, the speed skating rink of the 1998 Olympics and now an exhibition hall and the Olympic Memorial Museum. It cost Y700 ($9) to get in and we found it very interesting, it showed exhibits from the 1998 games, had a 3D theatre that showed a short movie (we are really into 3D now) and a bob-sled simulator (which was a bit weak as it didn’t move). You could also enter the stadium itself, we
climbed up on the medal podium and got to sit on the Zamboni (that was good!). The museum was excellent after about an hour or so (plus some time in the souvenir shop), we then caught the bus back to Nagano station and boarded the Shinkansen to Tokyo.
It took just over an hour to get to Ueno station in Tokyo, where we again rang the hostel for directions on how to get there. We ended up on the subway line to Minami Senju. Then it was a “7 minute’ walk to the hostel, by now it was raining quite hard and we were feeling wet and fed-up, we again rang the hostel from the 7-11, but luckily the owner came out to meet us and the hostel was very close. The hostel is called Hotel New Azuma, and we have a small room each for Y2700 ($34). They are tatami rooms with matting on the floor and mattresses you lay out to sleep on. The rooms are quite small but adequate, mine has a small balcony of which Tony is jealous! Had dinner in a very cheap Italian restaurant that was close by. Monday 7th June –
This morning we caught the JR line to Odaiba, where we got our China Airlines tickets refunded at their office there. On our way to the metro station, we passed a shop called “Cats Living” inside was everything you could possibly want for your pussycat, including some kittens for sale and in the back of the shop were glass windows where you could see cats living in a real “house” (lounge, kitchen etc.), we then found out you could go into the “house” for Y800 ($10) and play with the residents! Only in Japan!
Back on the train to Tageshi-dori, which is a bit like Carnaby Street, but Japanese style with lots of punk/gothic fashions, they also have a “Everything 100 Yen” store where I bought some el-cheapo make-up. Tony bought a yin-yang necklace from another store it was a fascinating area to walk around.
Next stop, although it had started to rain by now, was Shibuya, which was the heart (or one of them) of Tokyo’s neon shopping district it is very like London’s Piccadilly Circus or New York’s Times Square with large screen TV’s and huge neon billboards. Unfortunately it was now raining very
hard, so we waited in vain for the rain to stop so we could take photos. There were lots of freaks here, the young Japanese girls just cobble anything together to form an outfit, sometimes with disastrous effects; especially suntanned faces and white eye makeup, quite ghoulish, these are called Yamamba’s and they base their look on a white witch.
We gave up on Shibuya and took the train to Harajuku, as there was a particular shop I wanted to visit. The rain still hadn’t relented and after a 15 minute walk (despite the raincoats and umbrella we still got soaked), we found the shop “Oriental Bazaar”. Despite our miseries at being wet, we shopped up big, buying dolls, chopsticks, hats, magnets and pins, it was a great shop, but the dolls I wanted were too big and too expensive (over $40) so I was a bit disappointed about that. By now it was past 3pm, so we decided to return to the hostel, the rain really put a dampener on our day. At 730pm we went to a local bar and had dinner, a few beers and played “electronic darts”, I beat Tony two games to one (7
bullseyes!!). It was a funky bar and we had a good time. Tuesday 8th June – Tokyo
Noisy cats in the night, yowling by our windows. We set off just after 9.30am in search of “dolls”. A metro ride to Asakushabashi and then into the two doll shops, I found my ‘Kokeshi’ doll at last – yippee!! Then back on the train to Shibuya to take the photos we meant to take yesterday and we managed to take some good shots of the shopping district, still a cloudy day but at least it’s not raining.
Back on the train to Roppongi (we bought a Metro Day pass costing Y710 ($9) that can be used on all but four Subway lines) to look at Roppongi Hills, which has the biggest building in Tokyo, this all looked rather boring to us, so we didn’t bother to go in, just another skyscraper, it appeared. Then it was on to the Imperial Palace and Gardens, where we had a brief look around, you can’t get into the Imperial Palace, it’s now a government building, so we just had a quick look around outside. Tony didn’t feel like walking around the gardens,
so we jumped back on the subway to Iriya, looking for the public library, which provides the Internet for a ridiculously cheap price, something like Y100 for two hours, we ended up walking in the wrong direction and ended up at the next subway station, so we decided to head back to Iriya station (although first we went in the wrong direction and had to change trains) and try again. This time we walked in the right direction and found the library in about five minutes. We got full value out of Y100 and spent two hours emailing.
After that we had planned to go to Akasaka to an ex-pat pub, but it was now after 5pm, fairly cold and we were a bit tired, so we went back to the local bar we visited last night for a feed and a couple of beers. When we returned to the hostel we sat in the common room and chatted to a young American guy, a fat American chick who plays her guitar and sings constantly, and a guy from the Czech Republic. Tony had a few more beers and became very animated. Before long there was only three of
us, the young American guy and us, and before we knew it, it was 1am!! Wednesday 9th June – Tokyo
I had a bit of a sleep in this morning, until about 9.30am, I could hear Tony snoring through the walls. The Americans had told us about a chain of American restaurants called Denny’s, that do all day breakfasts, bacon, eggs etc., so we set out on foot to find it. We only had a rough idea where it might be, so after walking for an hour, we still hadn’t found it, but instead found we were in a suburb called Asakusa, which is about three train stops away. Although we were still hungry, we didn’t mind the walk, as it was a nice day (although overcast). We then stumbled across Tokyo’s biggest temple, Senso-ji, we had a good look around then spent some time in a street lined with souvenir stalls, there were quite a few people in this area and Tony spent more money.
We then decided to walk to Asakushabashi train station (which is where I bought my Kokeshi doll yesterday) and catch the JR line to Ginza. On the way to the station
we spotted a Macca’s, so we crossed the road only to find it was right next to the elusive ‘Denny’s’, so we went into Denny’s, but it was packed and there was a waiting line for seats, so we gave up on the ‘big breakfast’ and settled on Big Macs instead. We then caught the train to Ginza, a big shopping area in Tokyo. Our first stop was the Sony building, which is eight floors of modern electronic equipment, computers, TV’s, digital cameras and two robot dogs, doing doggie things like scratching their ears and stretching. I took a photo and one of them turns its head, looked (?) at me and came over, it was incredible, if not a bit spooky.
After spending a bit more time wandering the streets of Ginza, shops were more upmarket here, Prada, Bvlgari etc. I took a few photos then we headed back to catch the train to Ueno (we still hadn’t paid a fare thanks to our rail pass) here we found the Hard Rock Café, in the train station of all places, and Tony was able to buy a HRC baseball, which he meant to buy in Nagoya (but forgot).
We spent the rest of the afternoon in Meguro, looking for the parasite museum, obviously finding an 8.8m tapeworm in a human’s body is easier than finding this museum, we couldn’t, even though we had the right road, after an hour or so, we gave up. We had an early tea at Wendy’s, another American restaurant we had been told about, and then it took us almost an hour on the train to get back to our hostel as rush hour had begun. We chose to have a quiet night as we have an early start tomorrow so we did some washing and went to bed. Thursday 10th June – Tokyo – Shimonoseki
I have been awake since 4am and so has the sun, it gets light so early here (land of the rising sun). I felt two earth tremors during the night they were very slight ones but still tremors. Today we must catch five trains, two local JR’s to Tokyo station, then two Shinkansen to Shimonoseki, then a local train to Shimonoseki ferry terminal. We caught them all without any problems, although they all seemed to crawl along, especially the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Shimonoseki, although
the train itself went as fast as ever, it stopped for ages at every station. We got a little lost walking to the ferry terminal (taking a wrong turn) but then caught a cab (ooh, your bags very heavy!! Said the driver) and still we had plenty of time to catch the ferry.
The cheapest cabin is a tatami cabin shared with others, but we decided on a cabin Y12000 ($153) for some luxury, our rooms on ferries just get better and better. We had a 1 ½ hour wait before boarding & waited in a room full of Koreans (no more 8 or 9 passengers on our ferries, I think) & when we boarded found our cabin – have 4 bunks but it is just the two of us & we have a bathroom. This ferry is just as nice as the one we boarded in Taiwan. We had no choice but to eat in the restaurant (no food vending machines here) and picked something that looked safe off the menu. It cost Y1000 ($12) and was fantastic, a seafood pasta bake, fresh salad and croissants. We are so full, now we are sitting in our
cabin watching a Lara Croft movie in Japanese.
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