Category Archives: Japan

Himeji 2016

After a wonderful evening of wandering around Osaka and stuffing ourselves silly with okonomiyaki, we woke up bright and early on Tuesday morning to head out to Himeji with Mark and Belinda.

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We were lucky we went early.  As per my last visit, the grounds were brimming with people.  Although the wait to enter the castle was shorter, it felt a lot more squished / cramped inside.  I refrained from taking many interior photos.

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We headed back to Osaka to visit Kaiyukan – perhaps my favourite aquarium on the planet (sorry, Underwater World).

 

Osaka 2016 – Part One

We had a couple of spare days in Osaka which gave us the opportunity to wander around town and visit some of my favourite places.

Our first stop was for melon pan and it was DELICIOUS.  One of my favourite breakfasts while we were in Osaka.

Next, we visited Neko no Jikan – cat hour!  I’ve posted about it previously from my last visit with mum.

The current kitty cat roster.

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After the cat cafe we wandered around Amemura.

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We stopped in Shinsaibashi for treats..

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And we finished up our evening with more food and a quick stop at the SEGA arcade.

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Nara 2016 – Day Three

Tim and I set off from our accommodation in Nara quite early after another amazing breakfast.  He was keen to do some drawing, and I was super excited to play with and take photos of millions of deer.  There was a shrine that I wanted to visit between our hotel and the park as I’d heard that the cherry blossoms were already in bloom and beautiful.

Our last Nara breakfast
Overlooking Nara from the roof of our accommodation.
Himuro shrine – super cute hand painted map on the right for parking

Himuro shrine

As we walked to the park we realised that it was colder than we’d anticipated – blisteringly cold.  Cue both of us becoming pink cheeked and red nosed immediately.

Despite our best attempts to beat the crowds, it was already tourist city in Nara koen, so we bought some rice cakes for the deer and wandered somewhere quiet so Tim could draw and I could take photos of every single deer in the park.  Especially the baby ones.

Ushika-san

I made friends with a very hungry, extremely persistent deer and named her best friend.  She was following me around for a while and then suddenly, without warning, she left me.

Best friend and I. She had the pudgiest little deer face :> <3 <3

For this guy:

It was fair.  He had all the food.  I wasn’t too disappointed.  I mean, I was a bit disappointed.  I felt a bit better when I realised that all the babies were wandering over for a feed and when I saw this:

AHHH YOU GUYS THEY LOVE EACH OTHER!!!

After a while it became too cold for Tim to draw, so he helped me take some photos with the deer.

The shot.  Peaceful water, peaceful shika.

Bye, deer friend!

We slowly made our way to the station to head back into Osaka, stopping every five seconds to take more photos.

Nara 2016 – Day Two

When we booked our accommodation for Nara, I noticed a link on the New Wakasa Hotel website to a free tour guide club.  I went on a walking tour during my first visit to Nara and had such a fantastic time seeing Todaiji, Daibutsu, and Kasuga Taisha (among so many other things) and decided that a guide showing us a few places further away from the city and park would be fun.

A selection from 2014

I emailed the guide club about a month before we left Australia to request a tour of Toshodaiji and Yakushiji (two temples), and they happily obliged.

We awoke early for breakfast and I felt awful.  My throat and head felt as dreadful as they had since we left Cairns (probably due to the cold air during night photography – still worth it!).  We donned our yukata and we waddled downstairs in the hotel slippers to enjoy our meal.

After breakfast we proceeded to the pharmacy.  With assistance from google translate and our phrasebook, I explained my symptoms to the pharmacist and he directed us to some medication.  Through lots of broken Japanese, English and hand gestures, he made it clear that I should take it three times a day after food to help relieve my symptoms.

We checked out with our items and went outside to the shotengai adjacent to the Kintetsu station so I could find some water to take my medication with.  We stopped, and I opened the packet to find that it was.. powdered.

medication

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.  Swallow the powder?  Mix it with water?  Feeling slightly less gaijin than the evening prior, I dipped my finger in the packet to taste it.  Urgh.  Definitely not to be mixed with water.  I braced myself, said “Ganbare!”, emptied the packet into my mouth with some water and swallowed.  Really urgh.  It turned out to be very effective.

Our guide Junko met us at the Kintetsu station and we set off for the day.  She was fantastic – asked us lots of questions and shared lots of her personal experiences.  We took to her immediately.

Our first official stop of the tour was Toshodaiji.  Toshodaiji was founded in 759 by Ganjin, a Chinese priest who was invited to Japan by Emperor Kōnin to train priests and develop Japanese buddhism.  Ganjin’s journey to Japan was not simple – he made five unsuccessful attempts before finally arriving on his sixth.

Ganjin. From what we heard, he was a pretty tenacious guy.  During his first five attempts to get to Japan he was thwarted by bad weather and government intervention, among other things.  On the fifth attempt, he was blinded by an infection and still had the willpower to get to Japan. (I hear you on that, Japan-bro)
Toshodaiji – Kondo (Golden Hall)

As we walked around the complex, Junko told us about the different buildings and their histories and helped us to understand the significance of the temple.  During our walk Junko pointed out a mejiro in a sakura tree and we stopped so I could take a million photos.

No, but seriously, a million photos

If anyone wants a high resolution copy of these, let me know!

Junko led us to the next stop on our tour – Yakushiji.  The wind picked up considerably over the course of the day and by the time we arrived at Yakushiji it was blowing a gale.

Yakushiji and Toshodaiji were so different in appearance.  Toshodaiji was all raw wood and muted colours – the red, green, gold and black were all represented but not overtly.  Yakushiji was quite the opposite.

We encountered a group of girls who were in training to become guides and they seemed to be in the middle of their assessment.  They had a perfect uniform and were shouting over the sound of the wind to be heard.

Tim and I were gripping hands in his pocket (we had neglected to bring two pairs of gloves) while we dashed from building to building to avoid the chill.

While at Yakushiji, we had the opportunity to see some of Ikuo Hirayama‘s paintings – he made some specifically for the temple.

Having viewed both temples, it was well and truly time for lunch.  Junko took us to a marvelous udon restaurant for some of the most delicious food we had while we were in Japan.  As the restaurant was out between the temples without any other food around, it felt like a bit of a small town eatery.  It was quiet, friendly and intimate.

L-R Tempura on rice, pickles and kitsune udon.
L-R Tempura on rice, pickles and more kitsune udon.

To show our appreciation for her time, putting up with all of my questions and helping us have the most fabulous day, Tim gave Junko one of the bookmarks he had made, and I gave her some easter eggs from Haigh’s.

Thank you for the most wonderful day, Junko!! <3 <3 <3

We spent the afternoon wandering around Naramachi again, where we parted with Junko and went on the hunt for strawberries and condensed milk.  We went into OKest FRESH MART and struck gold!  Yuzu.  Cider.

We had planned a post dinner room picnic to celebrate our anniversary so we stocked up on additional supplies at the combini (so many cakes) and walked home.

Dinner was yet another masterpiece.  Tim enjoyed a bit more of it this time.

And finally… Sleep.