Japan (Part 1)

April 3rd: We landed in Osaka and caught the first train to Nara. We were frozen! It was so cold! SE Asia made us soft and suddenly 8°C was way too cold.

April 4th: We spent the day walking around the small city of Nara.

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The Buddhist temple, Todai-ji, in Nara Park is one of the world’s largest wooden structures at 48m high. It was built in the mid-700s and rebuilt in the 1700s after a devastating fire. It is 30% smaller than the original structure, but still impressive!
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Inside is the world’s oldest gilded bronze Buddha (Daibutsu). Records state that it took the efforts of 2.6 million people around 15 years to complete the building and the statue.
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One of the support columns has a hole through it that is supposedly the same size as Buddha’s nostril (the statue, not the man) which is an impressive 30cm. Those that pass through it are blessed with enlightenment in their next life. It wasn’t graceful and there was lots of laughter, but I got through!

Nara is famous for its park with over 1500 Sika deer that roam free. They used to be considered divine and sacred but have been re-designated as national treasures. It was so beautiful seeing all the deer under the cherry blossoms in full bloom. The deer were cute but definitely not polite. We watched many a tourist get chased and nipped at by deer when they withheld crackers.

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When crackers aren’t good enough.
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Yoshiki-en is a beautiful garden in Nara Park. This is what Les looks like when the sun is shining and he’s outside. No deer were spotted.

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Sake juice boxes pair well with the sunset.

April 5th: We did a day trip to Kyoto. On the way, we stopped at Fushimi Inari-taisha to walk through the torii that wind up Mount Inari.

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Not shown in this photo: the HORDES of tourists we left in the dust at lower elevations.

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Once in Kyoto, we checked out the skyway and observation deck at the Kyoto Station. It’s main hall has an exposed steel beamed roof and multiple escalators up to the observation deck.

From the train station, we made our way to the Philosopher’s Path which follows a canal and is lined with cherry blossom trees.

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On our way to the Philosopher’s Path, we wandered through a park and found huge crowds of people taking pictures of and with the cherry blossoms.
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On the way to the Philosopher’s Path.
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The famous weeping cherry tree in the centre of Maruyama Park.
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Pontocho Alley along the Kamo River. So many people and so many cherry blossoms!

April 6th: We originally planned to spend this day in Osaka but we really enjoyed walking around Nara so we decided to stay close to our hostel and spent the day in Nara.

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We found a great picnic spot where we drank sake and wrote haiku underneath the cherry blossoms. It was perfect. The poetry was rubbish.
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A five story pagoda at night.

April 7th: We took the train to Kobe where we went for a short hike to a waterfall. I gorged on baked goods from a delicious bakery (Isuzu Bakery). This was the first time in my life where I chose a savory treat over a sweet treat – curry buns are that good!

After our mini hike, we walked back into town and treated ourselves to Kobe steak from Steakland. We opted for the most and least expensive steaks on the menu just to see the extremes. The least expensive was one of the best steaks I’ve had, meaning the most expensive was unreal! It was as good as all the hype!

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A once in a lifetime treat?

After lunch, we visited the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum where we got to try some sake, some plum wines, and ate some sake ice cream.

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Cheesy photo “booth”
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The Kobe Port Earthquake Memorial Park preserves the damaged breakwater from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. It measured 6.9 (moment magnitude) and killed nearly 6,500 people.
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Artwork at the port.

April 8th: We took the westbound train to Kurashiki and stopped in Himeji on the way. Himeji is famous for the castle which is a beautifully restored white-walled compound on a hill with a moat.

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April 9th: We woke up to a beautiful day in Kurashiki. We spent the morning walking around the Bikan district (the old merchant quarter).

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Canal in the Bikan district.

From Kurashiki, we took the train to Onomichi to do the Temple Walk which connects 25 temples.

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Creeper shot of a man on his lunch break and a fluffy cat.
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I was among fellow cat-enthusiasts!
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Viewpoint overlooking Onomichi.

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Pancakes with vanilla pudding in the middle.

From Onomichi, we took the train to Hiroshima. The Hiroshima Toyo Carp (baseball team) had a game just a few blocks from our hostel. We asked if tickets were available and our host smiled like that was a silly question – it had been sold out for a while I think 😦

 

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