After 20 very intense and thrilling days at WSJ2015 i then had 9 days to do some travel with a fantastic group of Australian who also were at WSJ2015.
First off it was the Shinkansen from Shin-Yamaguchi to Osaka. Its a very quick 2 hour trip when you are traveling at 320km/h. I had booked to stay at a lovely traditional Japanese apartment with Tatami flooring and Futons, it was just as I had expected.
I had heard how beautiful Kyoto was so that was my first destination to visit while I was near. The train rid there was 45 minutes from Osaka so I mad a day trip of it. Armed with recommendations from Suitcase Stories I set of on my self-guided walking tour.
Number 1 on the map thankfully took no finding at all, it is Kyoto Station. It is the the second largest train station in Japan with a shopping mall, movie theater, department store and a heap of shops, I saw none of that and headed directly to stop 2. Unfortunately I feel like the tour was written by a male as the directions then said “As the station is quite big, make sure you exit the building to the north. You don’t want to get the walking tour off to a bad start!”. Luckily there was a tiny sign at the exit I walked out saying north, Great!!
Nishi Honganji was the first stop and as the tour described it a 2 in 1. Nishi Honganji is the west of the two temple complexes of Jōdo Shinshū (Stop 3 is the east temple). The Karamon gate was very impressive, with the gates construction dating back decades before the temples where built. There was a small temple located to the south of the main complex (the second part of the 2 in 1) which was just as impressive.
Unfortunately stop 3 – Higashi Honganji was under construction and was closed to the public. So I then wondered down a few smaller streets to a garden and found stop 4. It was a beautiful quiet place that I had a bit of a nana nap in; not that I had walked that far but in 40 degree heat it felt much longer. It had a small lake with a beautiful bridge and cherry blossoms; if you are there at the right time of year it would be spectacular.
Next was the Rengeoin Sanjusangendo temple the ground are also known as the Hall of the Lotus King. It is probably most known for being home to Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, who is surrounded by 1000 life-sized Kannons covered in gold leaf.
This stop is a shrine (and tomb) of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who died September 18, 1598 in Kyoto. It was only a quick stop, but it is great to see how a city can respect someone who has passed away.
I was done with walking by now but I still had one more place I wanted to get to before calling it a day; Toyokuni Shrine and boy was it worth it.
Exhausted after a day in the sun I headed back to Osaka to have dinner and explore the city. I has seen stereotypical temples and iconic Torii tunnels and now for masses of flashing lights, loud noises, and hordes of people.
The next day I headed out of Osaka this time to Kobe. This was the main city that I wanted to visit on my trip to Japan as it was where my Grandfather had grown up. I have never met my grandfather because he died before I was born but overtime, based on my mothers stories about him I know he was someone that everyone looked up to and respected greatly.
A 30 minute train trip later I was in Kobe. I didn’t have much of a plan today so I just went for a walk from one interesting looking land mark to another. Kobe is a port city and because of that it was another heavily bombed city in Japan during the war. There are only a few buildings that survived and they still show damage from the artillery that hit. Due to the overwhelmingly number of citizens opposed to nuclearization, on March 18 1975 the Kobe Formula was initiated, which prohibit nuclear-armed vessels from entering the Kobe port and it still stands today.
My walk around the city was filled with non-smoking zones, perfectly flat paved foot paths, cars that gave way to pedestrians, a reasonable grid-like streets system and streets that smelt like flowers (no joke).
Flower Road is decorated with flowers, fountains, sculptures, and luscious trees along both sides of the road. It is also a home to Japan’s first flower clock. A 550 meter long arcade between Flower Road and Motomachi is called, Sannomiya Center Street. Home to cite boutiques, import stores, patisseries (yummy), department stores, and an array of restaurants makes Sannomiya fell like it should be an arcade in Europe; a cleaner, more organised, newer Europe. I then had a walk through one of the bigger temples in Kobe
Finally quick walk through Kobe’s China Town that was filled with small restaurant shop fronts, food carts and cooky little stores
And of course there was Kobe beef…and a beer slushy, perfect after another log day of walking!
I have traveled to a reasonable amount of cities around the would in Europe, America and Asia but I have never been to a city, other than Melbourne (when I’m from) that I though I could live in, until now. I don’t know if its because I knew my grandfather had live there and I felt a connection but it was a beautiful city in all respects. Kobe… I’ll be back!
Universal World was day three, Amazing ..enough said!!
The next day we were off on the big adventure, Mt Fiji. 6am train and a bus got us to the 5th station by 11am and we were off. I know that we were hiking a volcano but it was very black, to state the obvious and I don’t think I really had time to think about what the surroundings were going to be like. We climbed the Fujinomiya Trail up, which is the 2nd most popular trail but the weekend that we choose to hike was a busy weekend.
It took us about 6 hours to make out way up Mt. Fuji to the summit where we were to stay over night. The first hour really hurt my knees until I stated walking better, then the next challenge was altitude. I could defiantly feel it a bit but no as badly a a few other in our group who felt nauseous and got headaches.
There were 9 of us climbing together but during the day we broke into 2 groups which made it a bit easier foe everyone.
There was a little pressure towards the end of the hike when we remember that we had to be at the summit by 6pm or we would have to stay at a lower camp. But luckily we all made it to the top. It was a spectacular view and well worth the hike up.
The day after was all down hill on the Yoshida Trail, easy for most but not for my already shit knees. That was one walk that I was very happy to be over and on our way to Fujisan and a traditional Onsen. No cloths aloud, sorry boys me an Erin had a great time.
There was much debate about going to Fuji Q theme park but considering the average wait time for a ride was 3 hours, I was out, there is much better things to waist 3 hours of my life on. So a few of us decided to have a look around town.
We first went to a UNESCO World Heritage site that was a traditional inn that people uses on their pilgrim to the summit of Mt. Fuji.
We then walked along the pilgrim trail to the Kitaguchihongufujisengen (i’ve never attempted to pronounce that) Shrine. There was the biggest Torii that I had seen so far in Japan. A Torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. I did some more research into this on as it was quite different to others that I have seen. This was a Ryōbu torii – a daiwa torii with pillars supported on both sides.
That evening was a short train trip to Tokyo, a city filled with flashing lights, vending machines, and buildings that stretched as far as you could see….