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Japan Trip

Well, knew I’d get round to this eventually.

Okay, first off. Caledonian Sleeper bunks? Love the privacy, and did sleep quite a bit, but still woke up exhausted so not sure if it’s worth the cash. Other than that, the train trip was fine, and made it to the airport with plenty of time, so performed the time honoured tradition of sleeping on airport seats. Felt my second wind come along as the plane set off.

Will say this about my flight. Virgin Atlantic was the most comfortable I’ve been on a long haul flight (with the exception of one, and that was cause the plane was practically empty). The entertainment was good (they had Brave and the Avengers!), and food was actually edible (first time in history I’ve actually finished an airline meal). However, it was a nightmare to sleep on so I arrived in Japan somewhat jet lagged – on top of still carrying exhaustion from the night before. This did not help when I got to the train station...and couldn’t find my rail pass. Thus began 15 minutes of agonised panicking and checking (I KNEW I’d packed it!), before finally discovering it had fallen to the bottom of a pocket.
Sadly things kept going downhill after that. I got the last train mixed up and went up several miles in the wrong direction. Sheer dumb luck resulted in me getting the right one back...and into geographical hell.
I had 2 maps. 1 from google with photos, and a graphic image from the website. NEITHER was accurate. I spent nearly 2 hours combing the area for my Inn, during which it started raining. And not just a little rain – this was 40-days-and-nights rains.


I tried to keep my suitcase dry by wrapping my jacket round it (which actually resulted in ripping and damaging it badly). All my paperwork got drenched too!

Just when I was about to give up and go to the station to retrace my steps, I see a poster on a lamppost for the place, with UNDERSTANDABLE directions. So finally made it – and didn’t want to train anywhere (besides, getting lost meant by the time I got anywhere, it would be closing). Instead, the receptionist gave me a map of the local area, and I went to explore the temples in Asakusa. Managed to see several parks, a good look at the Tokyo Skytree, and then came across Senso-Ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple.


This place was stunning – my knowledge of it without a tour was lacking, but it was incredible to find a place like this wedged in amongst Tokyo’s skyline. This route was part of one of Tokyo’s historic walks but decided not to backtrack and do the other half as it was getting pretty dark. Instead, went walking through Asakusa Market, which was pretty awesome. Saw some Kamen Rider goodies but had been warned not to buy until I’d been to Akihabara.
Took the long walk back (and boy had I not realised just how far I’d walked), and did have a little crisis. I walked past this gorgeous (completely and utterly) long haired daschund alone on the street, no collar. Nobody was around, and he just LOOKED at me – and when I had to start walking away, he started following me! Not for long, he eventually curled up next to a bike on the side of the road, but it broke my heart. I didn’t know what you’re supposed to do in that situation.
Got back to the Inn, where sleep deprivation was truly taking hold. Tried to make small talk with other guests downstairs, but eventually crashed and slumped upstairs to try a futon for the first time.

Left before Aizuya’s bar opened for breakfast, as I wanted plenty of time to get to Osaka. Good move, as the only train I could get at the time was the Kodoma, which only went to Nagoya. And then missed the connecting Hikari, so had to wait nearly an hour for the connecting Kodoma.
Once in Osaka, I once again showed off my grand navigation skills by getting lost (literally by miles – I ended up going a good 2 miles up and down the wrong road).
Make it to Imazato Guest House around 4 (note, left at 9.30, ouch...), and given the time decide I’ll do the Umeda Sky Garden as its still open. Though before I do, I get some gyoza from a stall. Gyoza were excellent, but don’t think the staff liked me too much.
Eating turned out to be a mistake, as it meant I missed the sunset by just 10 minutes – though to be fair, it was such a foggy day doubt you would have seen anything anyway.
The Umeda building is this behemoth not too far from Osaka Station. Two towers, attached by a lower walkway and a circle on the roof...AKA the sky garden.
I knew with my vertigo that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I hate it when that keeps me from doing something – especially when books and websites say it’s totally worth it. Definitely had some regrets going up in the lift though – the last 5 flights have no walls, so it feels like one of those tower rides where you go up and then fall. And then discovered the diagonal tunnels hanging between the two buildings are escalators...
An escalator, suspended over an open space...it’s as if they created my perfect nightmare. Made it up there though, and as a reward, get to see Osaka’s night skyline. The city goes on for miles! No matter where you look there’s just more and more buildings.


When I finally make it back to the ground, I finally got why there was a bridal shop in the building – it’s a very popular place to get married, and on the roof is the Lumi Deck, where you can engrave your names on a heart shaped padlock and lock it to the wall.


Very sweet.
In the basement, there was another attraction, it had been done up like an old Showa-era street. Sadly, I struggled cause there wasn’t many English menu’s, and I wasn’t brave enough to go in without. Eventually found a place though, and for a pretty good price too.
It was getting pretty dark, so I headed back to the station. However, on the way, I pass the HUGE Yodobashi building, and have to go in. It’s awesome! It’s mostly an electronics store, so the first 5 floors are dedicated to that. Other things are dotted around too (inexplicably, the trailer for Biohazard was playing over a grand piano). The next two floors? Toys and games. I saw teenage boys gathered round an idol machine, rows of Pokémon plushies, Persona 4 figures, and Kamen Rider belts! Sadly not the ones I’m after – and still showing restraint in preparation for Akihabara.

The next two floors were all fashion boutiques (nice, but out of my size and price range), and the top floor had restaurants. Don’t actually go up there and instead head back to the station and notice it’s starting to spit...
Sadly, in my haste to get back, I hop on the wrong loop train (wrong direction again), but by the time I realise this, its several stops along and decide just to take the long route home. Something I come to regret when walking home and the spit becomes a torrent. I can only thank Miranda for giving me her brolly before I left, its saved me twice now. Sadly, the red trousers I was wearing ended up staining my white top, so I had to keep them separate in my bag.

This morning I planned to go to Osaka Castle, and then the aquarium – wasn’t so sure on that cause of the price (2000 yen!), but again, it came highly recommended. When I told Yu-san (the owner) my plans, she recommended a special pass – 2300 yen, and it was the aquarium, discount on several other attractions, and a full day subway pass. Decided to go for it – great decision, because as good as the JR lines are, the subway gives you unbelievable freedom. First stop was Osaka-jo, built by legendary warlord Hideyoshi.


Or rather...the reconstruction of the reconstruction of Osaka-jo. It was destroyed in the 1600’s (I think) and rebuilt, then destroyed again in the 1800’s, then rebuilt again in 1913. Sad fact about Japan – A LOT of the old buildings are replica’s (and why Himeji is so special, it’s one of the few that isn’t). That said, Osaka-jo is very beautiful, and was great to see.
There were tons of stalls around the castle, so I finally decided to give takoyaki a try.


Discovered something about myself – There are certain things I just can’t put in my mouth, and tentacles are one of them. Admittedly, not something I would ever have to learn through experience...They looked great, but the sauce tasted like off salad cream, the outside wet croquettes and the squid was chewy purple rubber. God rid of them and bough Yakitori as a substitute.
Headed back to Imazato to get changed (weather had been pretty poor but had since perked up) and headed towards the aquarium after that. You have to go up to the top floor on an escalator (seriously, what is WITH the Japanese and heights?), and then make your way down. My camera was worthless in the light, so took video instead. They had otters, and SEA otters – who were stupidly adorable. And there was the big tank that the aquarium is built around – though houses their whale shark and giant manta ray.
It was all somewhat impressive, but still feel the price was a bit steep – 2000 yen is more than I’ve paid to get into zoo’s...
Anyway, by the time I made it back to the subway it was dark – had some ideas but eventually decided just to head back since I’d pretty much been on my feet all day.

Was heading to Nara today – had a few travel snafus’ but made it to the station with 10 minutes to spare. Found the woman who was in charge of the Nara Walk tours I’d read about – and despite being the only guest, she was happy to take me. So I basically got a personalised walking tour of Nara.
Walked up Third Street, which is full of sweet shops, a famous mocha shop, and half a dozen souvenir shops. Also took me down a little known road which is named after the fact that it’s too thing to get an umbrella up in, and explained why some places had pine cones hanging from their roof (to warn cars that they’re too close).
First proper stop was Sarusawa pond – which was build for the Buddhist ceremony of releasing goldfish (not meant to harm living creatures but eat fish, so to help appease – at least that’s how it was explained to me).


There’s also a ceremony that happens every September to appease the soul of a court lady who committed suicide here.
We followed up by going to Kofukuji Temple, which was originally in Kyoto. Like many places in Japan, it’s been burned down at least once, but still hosts the 2nd tallest pagoda in Japan. The main building was under construction though.
Entered Nara Park after that, and I saw my first Nara deer! They were dotted around a few places at first, but they clearly know how things work, cause the majority were hanging around the deer cracker stands.
Sadly, I made the mistake of buying crackers at that stand – my tour guide said she’d never seen it before, but the second I had my purse in my hands the deer just went for me. Crowding and biting my clothes. They got worse when I finally had the crackers in my hands – I tried jumping on a ledge to get some distance, but they just kept following me. One even gave me a sharp bite on the stomach hard enough to draw blood. Thankfully, once the crackers were gone and I opened my hands, they dispersed.


The guide figured they were so aggressive because there weren’t many tourists today, so they were getting fed less.
It’s actually kind of impressive how smart they are – if it’s in the hands they go for it, but they never touch the ones on the stands – apparently they ‘know’ what happens when they try – though I dared not ask how they get trained for that.
The next stop was Todaiji, which cost to get in, but houses the Great Buddha Statue (version 3.0). It’s also (one of the two that claimed it on my trip) the largest wooden structure in the world – though technically only 2/3’s the size it once was (original, you guessed it, burned down). It also hosts a hole in one of the pillars, which if you crawl through will give you good luck. Course the hole is tiny, so usually only children try. Not that that stopped the Australian tour group behind us from trying.
We began heading to our final place of the tour, the Tamukeyama Shrine, and the first Shinto shrine I’d seen. It also had a fee to get it, so decided just to look at the outside since it had already been such an expensive day. Ironically this building had been destroyed in the past, just not by fire. Every 20 years they’d demolish it and build a new shrine as an offering to the gods. And as an added bonus, pass shrine building skills to the next generation. However, the current building has stood since the 1800’s.
With the tour over, we headed back to town, and she recommended a few places to eat – though I ended up finding a place on my own and had Kitsune Udon. How the Japanese are so healthy is beyond me – this bowl was huge – actually the first time I didn’t finish a meal in Japan because I couldn’t, rather than not wanting to.
Started idly wandering, and probably spent more than I should have on sweets. Got back to Osaka in good time, and decided to spend my last night checking out Dotonbori, which is a street filled with plastic and electronic mascots and logos.


Of course, my usual waffling meant I didn’t get there until an hour after I’d planned – didn’t actually matter, because it wasn’t as good as I’d expected – maybe cause it wasn’t the weekend and low tourist time? Did get to see the famous crab model and the Glico sign though.

Made a tearful farewell to Yu-san and her son Keitaro as I leave Imazato and head off to Hiroshima.


On the shinkansen, I end up getting into a conversation with the gentleman next to me. Ken-ichi Morita was retired and used to live in London for over 6 years, so he was delighted for a chance to speak English again. It was great to talk about Japan and the UK for a while.
First thing that hits me about Hiroshima is the heat. Compared to Tokyo and Osaka this is a boiling pot. It also has trams rather than trains, and they’re pretty easy to use. Record time finding the hostel too. 3 minute walk only took me half an hour (went right instead of left the first time). It was closed up for cleaning, but dumped my stuff in the luggage room and headed for the Peace Park.
Tons of school trips, think this is the norm for here, and a few times I was accosted by young elementary students who would ask me to write down what my thoughts for Peace were.
Navigated through and made my way to the A-dome.


It’s been preserved to be exactly as it was when the bomb hit, just 80 metres away. All the citizens inside died instantly, but all the walls and the skeleton for the dome remained standing. There were mixed views on whether to preserve it or tear it down, but as other buildings were demolished, it was finally decided to keep it as is. Even as a ruin, it’s very striking (and as someone who was not impressed by the roman coliseum, that’s saying something).
Did the information centre, which has eyewitness accounts of the blast. It reminded me of Dachau – worse in some ways – I was crying at some of the stories.
When I got out, the sun was beginning to set, so I took some final photos of the Peace Memorial and the A-Dome. Wanted to see the museum, but by the time I got it, it was closed, so headed back to J-Hoppers.

J-Hoppers were nice enough to let me keep my suitcase in lock up, so I could just take my backpack for my one night away.
...Course, when I get to Miyajima Ferry? Got lost. How the hell I managed this I don’t know, it was literally 3 instructions. I ended up asking a woman, who was kind enough to direct me personally, so dumped my stuff and got on the ferry.
The woman at Backpackers Miyajima recommended that I check out the temples in the civilian area, and go see a tea house that doesn’t get much business. I did see a few of those temples, but found myself back on the tourist train a lot faster than expected. I headed into the Omotesando shopping arcade – which had tons of food and some expensive souvenirs. Then, the big one – the Torii Gate. It was low tide, so got to walk right up to them.


Again, it’s a big school trip destination, so lots of kids in uniform running around...getting mauled by deer. Went up to Senjokaku temple and its pagoda next, and while entering met up with Emily and Vanessa – who had been at the hostel last night. They were just leaving the building so we parted...only to run back into each other in a shop not that much later. We’d meet up again one last time in Momijidani Park, at the foot of the Mt Misen climbing path, along with their mother Ramona, so we all hiked up together.
It’s about 2.5km to walk, and the night before I’d been warned by someone who’d done it that it shouldn’t be done in sandals, so I was wearing my boots. They were right about the climb, but I kept having to empty my shoes of all the sand and rocks they filled with.
Walk takes about 1 ½, but with our regular stops and pace, it took us 2. The view was totally worth it though.


You could see forever – and Vanessa and Emily did a little rock climbing (I failed on account of footwear) before heading down. However, due to us being exhausted and taking longer than planned to get up, we all decided to get the cable car instead. Good thing too, because we just made it down in time for sunset. I gave up on the tea shop and instead started snapping the gate – eventually deciding to pay to get into Itsukushima Shrine to get the full frontal photo.


However, because of this, it was a good half hour before I got back to where I last saw the trio, and they’d obviously gone. Did manage to get their emails through J-Hoppers later though.
Decided to head into the arcade for something to eat...only to discover everything is shut. The island effectively shuts down at 6pm – even the restaurants. It was kind of upsetting and disappointing. Lonely Planet said it was well worth staying the night on Miyajima, but its dead after 6, I could have easily made it a day trip. First proper disappointment I’d had all trip.
The hostel is nice at least. Spent the night talking with guests, eating popcorn (with a minor brace panic when a bit got stuck) and listening to Bob Marley CD’s.

I knew I was going to Hiroshima today, but decided since I was up early that I could maybe go to see Iwakuni in the morning. Before I left, the woman at the desk offered me a great deal – tour tomorrow that would take me to Matsue for free – all I had to do was stay another night. Since I’d already paid for my next 2 in Hiroshima, I ended up declining (and found it quite sneaky of them not to offer it the first day I was there -_-).
Iwakuni was just a few stops along, and then I had to get another train to Nishi-Iwakuni station and walk for 15 minutes.


Bridge was very pretty though – and very strange to go up and down. Its once again a rebuilt job. The original stood for nearly 450 years - however, during and after WW2, it was impossible to keep up the maintenance required, and one night, despite the best attempts of the public, it was swept away in a flood. Less than a week later, a motion was passed to rebuild it, and its an exact replica - apparently the original design couldn't be bettered by modern engineering.
There was a park with temples on the other side, and wandered around after buying an ice cream (decided to be adventurous and instead of buying my usual vanilla, went for chocolate and melon. Finally a strange flavour combination that I liked!).
There was also a cable car to get to the castle on the mountaintop, and I groaned at the price. However, since I’d come all this way, figured I might as well.


The views were amazing, but I really had no need to go into the castle as unless you read Japanese, you won’t understand any of the exhibits.
Was running later than planned – so headed back to the bus stop (figuring it would be way quicker than my walk/train combo) only stopping to buy Iwakuni Sushi for lunch – very strong flavour, think it would have been better with soy sauce.
Picked up my stuff from Miyajima hostel and made it back to J-Hoppers for 2.45. Stayed in for 15 minutes for check in before heading to the memorial museum – though not fast enough to escape accosting from 2 girls who asked me questions, and then gifted me with a paper crane ^_^
I forked out for the audio guide, but realised pretty early that I didn’t need it – the place is mostly bilingual. Still it was a lot to take walking through. Since so many bodies were never recovered or cremated before identification, many families ended up only receiving objects as remains (lunch boxes and watches) that were buried in their place.


Took longer than expected to get through the museum, and by the time I found Hiroshima castle, it was closed – still, I’d seen 2 reconstructed castles so I really didn’t mind missing another, I just really wanted to see the outside. Ended up speaking to a couple from Brazil, just on the tail end of a round-the-world-trip (so jealous!) and headed back to town. Ended up taking a detour into a shopping arcade and slipping into a store called The Yellow Submarine to buy a model of Kamen Rider OOO’s I’d seen a few days before – it looks great.
Meandered back to the hostel and ran into Irina, the girl I’d shared a room with the night before and caught up. Both agreed that since we’d both missed Okonomiyaki in Osaka, we’d hit the place people told us about earlier. A restaurant that served Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki. Had to wait until her washing was done, but then we headed out to this really interesting restaurant – we both ordered Hiroshima style (okonomiyaki with noodles) and I added cheese. We got to watch them being cooked, and just watching made me realise I’d over-ordered. The giant ‘thing’ was looming – no way was I gonna eat it all.


Did slowly make my way through it, mostly eating the top layer and leaving the noodles – while Irina polished hers off in record time (and yes, I can appreciate the irony of ME being to the slow eater in this case). I did enjoy it, but feel I’d be better off ordering Kansai style (no noodles) and keeping it plain.

Today was meant to be Himeji, but I’d been told by people at the hostel that the castle is completely locked up and you can only go to the observation floor. I figured I might do Okayama – however, very last minute, I decided to just go straight to Kyoto and have another day there since there was a lot I wanted to do, and not a lot of time left.
First off, the shopping centre it’s attached to? Most beautiful building I have ever seen. The structure in the roof is just stunning.


Make my way out to the bus depo and decide to risk a bus pass since I have no clue where I’m going. Along the way I ended up making conversation with 2 Australians, Tara and Tom, and ended up tagging along with them all day. They were heading to Kodaiji Temple, since it was supposedly very beautiful.
(Will say this – if I discovered anything about travelling, it’s that the Australians are by far the friendliest tourists – they’re always happy to talk and welcome to the company. Most of the friendliest people I met were from Oz).
However, we got on the wrong bus, so we ended up having to walk a few blocks by. And by the by, it was HOT. Even hotter than Hiroshima and Miyajima – about 27 degrees! And the temple was up a steep hill too, naturally.

That said, it was well worth seeing – the complex is huge, and includes the love stones, which if you can walk between blind, will help you find your love match.


We meandered down the street after that, and I finally found green tea kit kats, and indulged in soy sauce rice crackers as well as my first shaved ice (and GOD do we need to bring these over here – they are SO good!).
We actually kept coming across idyllic streets and eventually hit the area near Gion – which is the area the Geisha’s (or more specifically the Maiko and Geiko) live.
I had to watch my time in order to get back to Hiroshima, but I stayed a little long to see what Tom and Tara said was considered one of the most beautiful streets in Asia. Not entirely sure we found it (lots of misses) but if was very pretty.
After that we said our goodbyes and I headed on a bus to the station. I hadn’t quite gotten my money’s worth on the pass, but was only 6 yen out. Ended up giving it to another Australian couple waiting in line for the bus.
When I got back (after a LONG journey), complete with headache, I found Irina had left, and I had the female dorm to myself. Immediately went out and bought a kansai style okonomiyaki for dinner (and I was right, better without the noodles), and treated myself to a slice from this very-expensive-but-totally-worth-it-Totoro-cake.


It had strawberries and chocolate and sponge centre! I saved the rest for tomorrows lunch, and started packing...where I realised I had a dilemma. My bag was lacking in full outfits – I clearly needed to do another wash. So I did, and hand washed my one white top and the red trousers that had stained my other white one.
Wow – the red trousers can leak. It seemed both the bathroom and I were red when I was done. I had to leave them there, plastic bag in the bathtub to prevent staining, and hang stuff around the room, praying it would be dry in the morning.

There was word of a typhoon hitting in the next few days – and as such the weather was miserable when I arrived. I had no specific plans so wandered round the local temples and went up Kyoto Tower.


Also hit Kyoto’s Yodobashi – just as awesome as the one in Osaka.
I’d managed to find a coupon for a Maiko performance that I could get a discount on, so decided to try and find Gion Corner – the theatre it was held in.
Of course, by the time I left (and my exceptional lack of navigational skills), I didn’t find the place in time – was over an hour late. BUT, so was another woman, so we chatted over our mutual failure and went our separate ways. I hit the arcades for a while (didn’t win anything, boo), and headed back to my hotel, where the receptionist told me tomorrow should be fine and the typhoon shouldn’t hit until the evening.

Sky looked dubious, and it was rather cold, but decided to brave the weather and go to Kyoto Studio today, something I’d been looking forward to all trip. Via trains and some directional errors I found my way and headed onto the fake Edo village (ignoring the ninja house as it cost and I figured I could do it later).


The village is really cool – I recognised chunks of it from various KR’s filmed here – but only got to see a little of it cause my show schedule said there was a Superhero Show on in one of the buildings on the other side of the park. Along the way I also saw a lot of cosplayers who were using the village as a backdrop – including a Kakashi and Iruka, and a group I didn’t recognise.
Managed to get to the show in time – and it was actually really awesome!


It’s for kids, so the plot is really simple, meaning it’s not hard for a non-speaker to understand. The costumes were obviously not as good as the TV show’s, but the action and general pace were great. Even got my photo taken with wizard, Fourze and Meteor.

Right next door was the Hall of Heroes, dedicated to Sentai and Kamen Rider. And just outside was a display for the Den-o movie, since the majority was filmed here.
I am pretty certain none of the costumes on display are the actual costumes. If they are, then they have either aged really badly or Japanese camera’s hide a world of faults. Still, could be costumes from the shows in the park maybe? Glad to see it (and even got to see props like Bloody Rose and the Cous Coussier sign).
Unfortunately my good mood dims when I walk out the door...and find ‘pissing it down’ doesn’t even come close to covering it.


Typhoon is here. Then discover that due to said typhoon, pretty much everything but the main building is shut down. That’s no ninja house, no movie archive, ninja show, park tour, woodcut museum or costume photos. I tried to be optimistic, and went to see the superhero show again. Obviously rain didn’t stop so ended up braving the outside and running the hundred or so metres to the anime museum. Which is basically a shrine of toys and movie posters – majority of it One Piece naturally.
Bolt back, getting soaked, and accept that this day is a bust. The only things open are the anime museum, hero hall and costume hire (which cost more than I could afford, especially if I couldn’t go out). There was also something to do with Pretty Cure, but as I’m not a fan, I wasn’t sure what.
I accept defeat, bemoan the cost of coming here, and try to head home. Problem? The way I came in? Closed off. Have to go through exist on the other side of the park. The train station is on the side I originally came in, and there’s no direct roads heading there from this part of town. So begins nearly 40 minutes of slugging through rain and wind to get back. Only reason I didn’t snap and take a bus/taxi? Couldn’t find one. Finally make it to the station to see a train leave – my train. So have to wait another 40 minutes for the next one. By the time I get back to Kyoto station I’m cold, wet and miserable. I stop in Yodobashi for some retail therapy (some Eevee evolution models – wanted to buy a KR figure, but the 2 I wanted were sold out) and head back home.
I’m sorely tempted to just stay inside tonight. My sandals are soaked and that leaves me with my dress sandals (NOT in this weather) or my boots. But I really want to see the show in Gion, so out again I trudge. I make it early enough for the second show...only to find out that, due to the Typhoon warnings, the show was cancelled.


Much resentment abounded after that, but again I was not alone. A crew of English teachers from Seoul had come to Japan for the weekend – no clue about the Typhoon. So we all headed along the main street and found a sushi restaurant.

Had some great food and great conversation – never would have found the place on my own, so at least that was one good thing salvaged from the evening. Plus when we walked outside? It had stopped raining! Typhoon hadn’t hit Kyoto as bad as expected and was gone!

Typhoon was technically over, but the weather was still miserable. And as an added bonus, my sandals were still drying out, and after last night, my boots had been destroyed. Literally incapable of being worn again destroyed. I was meant to have another pair of flats, but the ebayer never sent them in time, so I’d brought my dress sandals as an emergency substitute. I’d only worn them once before and I remembered them being relatively comfy.
...Course that was at a dance, where I could sit down whenever I wanted.
Before I even got to Arashiyama my feet hurt, but I ignored it as it looked like it might start raining again, and I was determined to see the Bamboo Grove. Walked through the Tenru-Ji garden and then wandered through the grove.


It’s a strange thing to walk through a bamboo forest – kind of eerie and magical. Went into the temple after that, mostly to get my shoes off. The sandals had killed my feet, blisters all over. Once the temple was seen – I realised I had to cut the trip short and get some new shoes. I thought I could still stay when I found some in a local gift store, but discovered a problem. My feet are an average size back home, but here? My feet are mammoth. Most shoes that are likely to fit are men’s shoes. And I just couldn’t convey that I didn’t care they were for men – and the assistants could wrap their heads around the fact that a girl might want to wear men’s shoes. It was an annoying conversation, and meant I had to leave Arashiyama.
Hit Kyoto’s Yodobashi again, and hit the fashion floor. Took 6 shops, but finally found ONE PAIR of shoes that would fit. A pair of brown boots (ironic considering that’s exactly what they were replacing) that came in the size XL. Cost about £35 – which was a pretty good deal, especially since I couldn’t be picky.
Took the chance to move my stuff from the Matsubaya Ryokan I’d been staying in to the Kana Hostel. This was a last minute booking due to a schedule oopsie in my planning, so was in a mixed dorm. Only ever met one roommate though – a guy called Marcus from Sweden.
Final night, and I was going to Gion again – this time for a night tour. Sadly, by the time it ended I would have missed the Maiko performance. Naturally guess what the guide gave out as a receipt? The discount coupon.

The tour itself was really good – it lasts about 90 minutes and our guide was a woman named Emi. She helped who us how to identify a boarding house compared to a teahouse, and what apprentices have to do to become Maiko, who then become Geiko (Kyoto Geisha dislike the term, so are called Geiko). Even managed to spot Emi’s favourite Maiko on her way to a job.


NOTE: How to tell a Maiko from a Geiko. Maiko use their own hair, wear very decorative kimonos, raised sandals and very long obi’s. Geiko have much plainer kimono’s, wear wigs and normal sandals – also don’t have to wear the makeup if they don’t want.

At the end of the tour, I headed off to a restaurant I’d read about in the hostel guest book – the Ninja Restaurant. Designed mostly for tourists, I was heading to the addition to the restaurant – Sweets of Ninja. It’s a dessert buffet, and naturally got lost looking for it, but sheer dumb luck got me there anyway.
You have 90 minutes, and they do have a small section of normal food before setting in on the desserts. But said desserts were awesome.


White chocolate fountain, black crepes, little sponges with mouse, baby cakes – my only complaint was that I got in late, and part of it (hot desserts and drink) closed not long after I got there. Think it would have been better with company, but great place to go.
When I got back to the hostel, Marcus mentioned he was going to Inari Shrine in the morning, so made plans to go together, and finally tick the last box in my ‘to-do-in-Kyoto- list.

Got up around 7.45 and managed to get dressed and checked out in good time. Met with Marcus and the two of us headed out on the Nara line to Inari.
It’s definitely one of the easier temples to find – literally walk out the door of the station and there it is.


We headed up to the Tori walk, where thousands of gates line the mountain path. It takes a few hours to do it fully, but I was on a deadline so only went a little ways up. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place (least once you get through the first part where the school trips rule). The gates are all donated and don’t fully line the path but the beginning is pretty packed.
Anyway, say my goodbyes to Marcus and make my way back to Kyoto, and prepare for my very last Shinkansen. Spent most of the trip writing the diary that I’d been neglecting for a few days. When I returned to Aizuya Inn I knew I didn’t have much time, and planned to have a relaxing night. So I hopped on a train to go see Ginza, as it was the one distract in easy travel distance that I wanted to see.


Did a little wandering and considered going up the Sky Tree – but instead came back to Aizuya Inn. Hit the local shops for dinner, and spent the evening listening to the drunken party on the steps outside, and wondering how much trouble I was going to have packing after Akihabara tomorrow.

Got up early, but decided to delay Akihabara for an hour so I could have breakfast as the Aizuya Bar. One of the best decisions I made all trip – for their continental option made my stomach cry with joy. Considering I normally eat cereal twice a day, it’s been sorely missed from my diet. This one was all types mixed together – krispies, bran flakes, corn flakes, muesli, raisins and dried fruit – and it was unbelievably nice. Plus toast, fruit and my first decent cup of tea in nearly 2 weeks – it made a nice change from rice.
Waiting for the bar to open meant I got to Akiba about 10.50, but as it was, not all the stores were open, so might not have been all that late.


As I walk round though, I learn a very bad lesson – do not STOP at anyone. In every other part of Japan, most people with pamphlets or trying to sell something act like I don’t exist, but not here.
And once they’ve got their claws into you, there’s no getting away. They’ll drag you into their shop, cafe or suddenly stop knowing English if you won’t give them money (a very persistent Buddhist who ended up getting 1000 yen just to make him GO AWAY). I hadn’t expected it – I’d gotten used to being invisible to promoters and the like, so that wasn’t great.
Anyway, I’d been told not to buy anything until I’d gone round every shop, as places pretty much have the same stuff but for different prices. I’d also made a list of what I wanted to buy so I didn’t get too distracted.
I shouldn’t have bothered. Of the 5 things on my ‘came-to-Akihabara-for-list’, I only found 3 of them – and 2 were still way too expensive in the cheapest shop. Another WAS a decent price, but I never found the shop again, and had kinda gone off it after seeing what else was available.
Anyway, when I realised my wish list had been a failure, I looked back at all the shops and had an epiphany. In general, most things here weren’t that much cheaper than they were online, and what I’d have to pay to GET them home would even it out. But I’d forgotten one collectable. The small gashapon figure.
I’m quite fond of the little figures – especially Kamen Rider, but online, though the price isn’t much, by the time you add P&P, its doubled. And I’d passed a shop that had tons of small gashapons for 200 yen each.
I decided to go there and go wild. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it. I went into every shop without success – and to make it worse, it started raining, getting me drenched once again.
Course, while searching I found some other great things. Bought a few key chains, model-in-a-box I thought was a plush (plan to sell) and my favourite find, a Pikachu bowl and tea cup. I’d seen these in Osaka for 500 yen each, and really wanted them but held back – regretted it since I never found them again. Both were in different stores, for 280 yen each, so made a saving too.
I also eat at a Maid Cafe just to try it – never again. If you’re female, on your own and only have the bare bones of Japanese, it’s not for you. They didn’t seem to know what to do with me, and it’s EXPENSIVE. 500 yen just to eat there, and nothing on the menu less than 800 yen. I ended up paying 850 for a crepe, which was ridiculous since there was a great crepe stand in Akiba that I could have gone to for a third of the price.


Anyway – did eventually find my gashapon store, and came out with about 25 little guys, plus an Accel memory and a Momotaros plush.
Finally head on home, though not before hitting up the Yodobashi to see if they had a Kamen Rider Accel figure. No such luck. That’s THREE cities I’ve searched and everywhere is sold out. It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s the ONLY rider I can’t find. Stop by the 2 stores that were closed when I first arrived – got a big plastic model of W, and a model of Meteor and his bike.
I had planned to go to the Sky Tower that night, but the weather was so bad that I just went back to the Inn and used their order service to get 12 pieces of tuna sushi for dinner. Spoke with a family from Australia while I did, including an excitable 13 year old. Ended up showing off photos from Eurocosplay to some of the foreign visitors interested in cosplay in the lounge too.

Ugh, made a bad judgement call this morning, and paid for it. Today was Tokyo Disneyland day, which meant leaving early...and I had no idea what to wear. On the one hand, maximum temperature today estimated at 28 degrees, on the other, 60% chance of rain. Yesterday had warned of about 25 degrees and rain, and it had been pretty miserable.
I decided to dress for rain in case the weather was like yesterday, so summer top, but jeans, boots and light jacket.


As I travel, it seems like I made the right choice, weather is miserable. Then came 11.30...and it suddenly becomes the hottest day of my trip – the only relief being a rather cold breeze that comes through at height. I dump my jacket in a locker, and roll my jeans up, but the real problem was that after nearly a week of typhoon weather, I’d gotten out of packing summer gear. So I had no hat, sunglasses or sunscreen. I was out in the sun with no protection. I tried using my umbrella, and keeping to the shade, but by the end of the day I’m burnt solid, and suffering what feels like a minor case of heat exhaustion.
Other than that though, had a great time. I did Disney Sea instead of Disneyworld as it had the more interesting rides. Managed to get on Tower of Terror twice (would say it’s better than Florida and Paris), Raging Spirits once (not that great), journey to the Centre of the Earth once (wanted to go on more, but by the time I found it, Fast Pass was over and the queue was an hour), and, because it had single rider, I went on Indiana Jones four times (easily my favourite ride). It was just fun to go on.


Also saw Mythica (alternate version for some reason), Mystic Rhythms (very awesome) and Fantasmic (not quite as great as Florida if I’m honest. Might just have been where I stood though).
It’s dark and close to closing time, but I decide to get one last shot on the Indiana ride before I go. And as I walk in the entrance it starts to rain...
Unbelievable. 60% chance of raining before 6, not a cloud. 30% chance after 6 and the heavens open. It was tolerable until I got to the plaza (less than 400m from the station), and biggest thunderstorm ever erupts!


Seriously, the typhoon didn’t have wind and rain this bad! It came down in buckets and the win just blew it into the shelter. Finally I decide to brave it, and run screaming into the new lake.
On the plus side, proved my new boots are without a doubt waterproof.
The weather stayed pretty awful, and as it was about 10 when I got back, called it a night. Tomorrow would be ‘How much of Tokyo can I do in a day’.

Last day, and again waited so I could have another nice breakfast, and then headed out.
Sadly, my JR pass was now finished, and I needed to rely on the subway. The guy at the Inn told me there were 2 day passes – one for either the Toei or Tokyo lines for 700 yen, or a combined one for 1000. He said the Tokyo line should be more than enough to get me where I wanted to go, so I tried to save some money. This ended up coming back to bite me as many places seemed easiest to access via the Toei line, so I succumbed and bought both, which meant I spent about 400 yen that I needed to. Was in a bit of a mood about that during the day.


Anyway, couldn’t spent long anywhere since I had so many places to see, but over the day I made it to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harujuku, the Jinno Shrine, part of the Imperial Palace (by the time I got there the second part had closed) and then headed to the Skytree in an attempt to get there before sunset.
I should have just gone to the Tokyo Tower. One, by the time I go there, sun was gone. Two, it was an hour’s wait, and three, it cost 2000 yen to go up, and that’s more than Umeda and Kyoto Tower combined!


I mean, I could afford it, but at that point it just seemed wasteful, especially since I’d only be up there maximum of half an hour. So instead I wandered around the shops – found a great Ghibli store:


...and got the train to Asakusa to do a final souvenir wander round the market before heading back to the Inn. Did intend to leave again to see Tokyo Tower and certain districts at night, but after packing my bag (and wasn’t that a fun Tetris-esque game – think I damaged a few boxes, BUT got everything in), I wasn’t in the mood. Instead went to the Aizuya Bar since it was open, and found fellow Inn mate Deborah and the most adorably affection cat you ever met! He’d been trimmed, and I wasn’t sure of his breed, but he had a gold chain link bling collar and was called P-Chan ^_^


He belonged to the guy running the bar that night, a student called Kazu – had a great conversation with him about travelling, the uselessness of managers (the bar REALLY needs better management), and life in general. I was sorry to break it off, but I had an early start, and a handful of things still to prepare for tomorrow, so said my goodbyes and headed back to the Inn.

Sadly, in the morning I realised I hadn’t given myself enough time to get to the airport. I figured four hours was enough time – but between waiting for trains and just getting out the door, I didn’t even get on the Narita train till the time I’d wanted to be there. So only got there 2 hours in advance, and after having to wait in a very long queue for check in and getting through security, I go through with just ten minutes before boarding (let that be a lesson to all Japan travellers). Did have enough time to see a display of origami in the airport before boarding.


The flight back was definitely worse than the flight there. For one thing, no window seat, I was wedged in the middle section, and my brain just couldn’t wrap its head around the time. When I actually set foot on British soil again, I felt like the walking dead. I did manage to drag myself to the next flight check in, thankfully this time with plenty of time.

Took nearly a week to recover from the jet lag though. Also came down with a sore throat and cold after the flight. Definitely need more time after a holiday – going straight back to work is a BAD idea...