So, our Japan rail pass ran out today, we’ve arrived in Toyko ready to put our feet up after a hard 3 weeks of non-stop travelling, 4000km to be precise! I set Mitch the task to work it out! We have covered as much as we felt was possible for poor little Freda, which was quite a lot. We are celebrating a job well done with a nice bit of wine in our very average, but comfortable Toyko apartment.
Anyone who looks at our route or who knows Japan will think we were mental as we’ve been back and forth like maniacs! But the route we took was fully centred around the availability of accommodation, which was at times limited to the dregs! Once again, booking in advance in Japan is definitely recommended! Anyway, it all went swimmingly, mainly due to the fact that the Japanese rock and have built the best transport system in the world. Apart from their slow trains, which are well, disappointingly slow! But those fast ones, well I’m gonna miss ’em!
We both wanted to go, most people seem to feel the need……I’m not sure why, I guess for me I felt it was important to have a chance to learn about, and to contemplate, the devastation that man can cause. It was a trip of two halves, the city itself is not a beauty and on every corner there is a reminder of what happened in 1945. It was eerie thinking of the whole city being burnt to the ground.
This was one of the few remaining buildings in the whole city to remain after the bomb, it stands just below where the A-bomb exploded, it was left standing as a memorial. I think it’s too unimaginable and horrific for anyone to really get their head around what happened! But, the Peace Gardens and museum with photos, memorials and artifacts, pictures of a city before and after, gave an insight into what can only be described as pure hell. Visiting Hiroshima, on a positive note gives you hope to see this counties desire for global peace. A torch burns in the centre of the Peace Garden that will only be put out when the last nuclear weapon is decommissioned. Hiroshima is a city that shows the power of the human spirit and the dignity and grace of the Japansese. Once again, poor old Freda is learning a few things a little too early, but she was able refrain from climbing on everything that moved and I whisked her past anything too horrendous for her little eyes to see, which was also a relief for me! So let’s give peace a chance and move on to more uplifting stuff!
After spending the morning at the memorial, we headed an hour out of Hiroshima, to the lovely island of Miyajima. Though it would be a bit more lovely if it wasn’t full of tourists and deers who would eat your granny if you put her on a plate! The pesky little deers ate our map, right out of Mitchs hand!
I rescued the info guide, but the map was fully digested! They then got fed up with Freda trying to stoke them and tried to head-but her, luckily she sweept from harms way by an amazingly quick mother! The island has an impressive shrine in the water and amazing cablecar ride. Unfortunately we went on the weekend, so we spent most the time in a queue, but hey its not like we have anything better to be doing!!
Bulleting back to Kyoto, we stopped at Himeji, which boasts a rather lovely castle, Freda enjoyed a spot of fighting with a samurai.
Known for 17 Unescos World heritage sites and around 1600 Buddhist temples, it’s got it all going on. You can wander among bamboo groves, take in Temples you can only imagine in your dreams, discover your art of zen in beautiful gardens, see geishas tottering about, walk down philophers walks and emerge yourself in the true japan.
Yes it was lovely, the only problem was we had to share it with a hundred other tourists (carefully cropped from my shots) as they all fought for the perfect picture of serenity in Japan!
Of course its touristy for a reason, it was amazing, but 3 days was enough and we needed to get more use out of our Rail Passes, so we got back on the Bullet!
Osaka, Okayama and Kurashiki
We slowly made our way to Fukuoka, back past Hiroshima, with overnight stops at Okayama and Kurashiki. We stopped briefly at the third biggest city in Japan, Osaka, to take Freda to the aquarium, and like with all things in Japan was big and amazing.
In Okayama we stayed in a very nice house out of the town, they had some bikes so did a long ride out into the countryside around temples, shrines, pagodas and other lovely things.
Just down the road a couple of days later we stayed in a place called Kurashiki, lovely town with old canals and great cakes! They also had the largest Koi Carp you have ever seen……I think due to the fact they sell food to kids on the side of the canal and if Freda’s anything to go by, they like feeding them, the poor things could hardly move!
Fukuoka and Sumo
So, we again boarded our favourite mode of transport and sped past Hiroshima and on to Fukuoka. Our only reason for travelling an insane distance to a city that held little interest was to see Sumo! Oh yeah, we couldn’t pass up on that! I mean who doesn’t want to see a bunch of overweight guys, wearing pants and charging at each other like prized bulls!
Each day of the tournament starts at 8am, and normally with Mitch liking to get value for money, we would have headed there in the morning! But, knowing that the best sumos were on at the end of the day and that the wrestling can be a bit of a drawn out procedure, we opted to only go for the last few hours. Well, what can you say, its bloody weird, only in Japan!
It consisted of mainly ceremony, lots of warming up, sumos slapping themselves a lot! They looked like they were ready, then no, a bit of armpit wiping, slapping again and talc throwing, then they are finally ready, blink and you might miss it! It’s good, it’s funny and very entertaining, but the actual bout only lasts a few seconds! Then you’re waiting again for the next one with the same warm-up regime. Freda and I had the privilege to see a Sumo warming up back stage, being slapped about by his friend while in his pants, they are not so nice close up, I may have scarred my daughter for life, but she did seem to enjoy it!
Our time in Fukuoka was up, we had to head back to Tokyo before our Rail Passes ran out. We didn’t know it, but we’d walk over a patch of road, Mitch became obsessed with it a week before on the news, it was amazing to see how quickly it was relaid, we didn’t even notice a week later, check it out! Imagine us fixing a road that quickly, it takes 5 years to fill in a pot hole in London!
We had a stop over in Nara, a nice little town with more cheeky deer, luckily this time you could buy them some biscuits, which Freda had to be instructed not to eat, so we managed to keep our possessions!
So thats it Rail Pass time is up! It was fun, while it lasted.