April 10th: We headed to the island of Itsukushima (or Miyajima, meaning “Shrine Island) first thing in the morning. There were lots of deer and tourists 🙂
April 11th: We took the train to Iwakuni and went for a walk from the train station to the Kintai Bridge, a wooden bridge with a series of five arches built in 1673. On the way we walked through an American GI girly-bar district and an accident scene investigation – it was a side of Japan we hadn’t see before.
We took a train back to the train station and caught one to Yuda Onsen.
April 12th: From Yuda Onsen, we did a day trip to Hagi, a small city on the north coast.
While in Hagi, we fed the carp and turtles in the castle moat, went for a walk and saw some really big hawk-like birds. While we waited for the bus back to Yuda Onsen, school was out and we got a parade of giggly “hello”s 🙂
April 13th: We took the train from Yuda Onsen to Tsuwano. After finding our guesthouse and dropping off our bags, we walked to the Yabusame festival venue. Yabusame is horseback archery with three targets. Tsuwano has Japan’s oldest purpose-built archery range. We waited 4 hours in the cold to see people practice for the festival the next day and it was worth the wait!
April 14th: Festival day! We splurged and paid for 2nd row seats. It was worth it! All the best viewing spots were taken by photographers on little step stools. It was super cool!
April 15th: We boarded an early morning train from Tsuwano to Matsue, on the north coast and spent the day walking. We visited the Matsue Castle: one of the few remaining medieval Japanese castles with its original wooden form.
We had handmade udon noodles for dinner and then went for a night time walk around the izakaya (pub) district.
April 16th: Another day, another train! We took the train to Tottori and visited the sand dunes. These dunes have been around for over 100,000 years and take up over 30 square kilometres!!
We also visited the Sand Museum which was amazing! 15 international artists create sand sculptures with a specific theme for each show. The theme when we were there was South Asia 🙂
April 17th: We took the train to Osaka – our final stop before flying home! Our first order of business was to seek out A Happy Pancake. It is a restaurant serving delicious souffle pancakes. I had seen an Instagram post of someone cutting into a stack of these pancakes and I was sold. I had been daydreaming for a whole year about going to this restaurant. IT WAS A DREAM COME TRUE!!!!!
Dinner in Osaka was at CoCo Ichibanya. I waltzed in there thinking, ‘how spicy can Japanese curry actually be?’ After reading the menu (after Les told me to read the menu), I opted for a level 5 spice level. It was so hot! I struggled with not blowing my nose at the table (rude) while trying to eat with my mouth closed. Les ordered a 3 and instantly got hiccups and beads of sweat started forming on his nose. We were disasters.
April 18th: This was a long day! Especially because it involved crossing the International Date Line 🙂 We caught our flight at 7pm (April 18) from Osaka and landed at 8am (April 18) in Honolulu.
We were groggy and confused and spent the day walking around Honolulu before our flight to Vancouver at 10pm.
The beaches were beautiful! I got to eat a spam musubi (fried spam on sticky rice) from the ABC Store for old times’ sake. We had thought that we were too exhausted to enjoy our day in Honolulu but it was such a lovely day, we couldn’t help but smile and be happy 🙂
We had a great year!