The Land of the Rising Sun

Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 07, 2011

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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Friday, October 28, 2011

We made it to Japan successfully, the last country on our trip. The ferry was much more comfortable than the train and bus. It was a little rocky, we felt a bit sick when we first lay down. We thought it might be a long night but we soon fell asleep. The room was supposed to sleep ten people but luckily we only had to share with two other English people.

From our own research and other traveller's advice, we knew that transport in Japan is expensive! We decided to buy a seven day rail-pass so we could see as much of the country as possible before spending our last week in Tokyo. For some stupid reason you cannot buy the pass in Japan so we bought it at the port before leaving South Korea. This set us back almost a million won and is the most expensive purchase we have made in the last eight weeks.

The Japan rail service is a bit complicated but very efficient. They have bullet trains covering the whole country and women only carriages, Mike almost made the mistake of getting into one!

We spent our first few days in Kyoto, the ancient Capital of Japan. Kyoto is full of old streets and is also home to the Geisha. It is very rare to see a Geisha but we were lucky enough to see two walking down the street. We visited several shrines and the `Kiyomizu-dera Temple`. This is one of the biggest temples in Kyoto, set beautifully in the mountains.

From Kyoto, we used our rail-pass to visit several other nearby cities. Our first stop was Kobe. This city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1995. We visited the `Disaster Reduction Museum` which was built to remember the tragic earthquake. This museum was worth visiting and some of the video footage was quite moving. We spoke to a woman who was living in Kobe at the time of the earthquake; she showed us her own photos of her destroyed house and described how she was trapped underneath the rubble. The museum also featured recent earthquakes and the devastating Tsunami in Japan.

The next city we visited was Osaka; this is a business area where there are not really any tourist attractions. The city is quite nice though; there is a big red ferris wheel which is on top of a department store, different! We wandered down some small streets and had a look at some of the cool games in an amusement arcade.

We made a random stop at `Takatsuki`. It looked mostly like a residential area but we found some Cadbury`s chocolate in a department store which made the stop off well worthwhile.

The next day we visited Himeji to see a famous Japanese castle. This castle was used in the James Bond film `You Only Live Twice`. It looked very picturesque on the internet which was one of the main reasons we visited. We were a little disappointed to discover that a five year restoration project was on-going and a giant shed has surrounded the main keep. It was still nice to look around and they have made the restoration work area into a small tourist attraction where you can see the work progressing. Some might find the restoration work interesting but to us it was just a building site. You can still go into the castle so it hasn`t completely ruined the attraction.

We are now in Tokyo and are using it as a central hub to see some more cities before our rail-pass expires.
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