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Archive of posts about Japan


Last Stop Hakata

Our final stop in Japan was Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu in the South West of the country. It’s a modern city, with fewer sights to see than most places in Japan, so we didn’t have too much to cram into our last few days. Our hostel in the Hakata district was one of the most traditional we’ve had in Japan so far; we had to take our shoes off when we came in, and our room had tatami matting on the floor and a futon each for us and the four others sharing the room.

On our first night we headed to Nakasu, the entertainment district of the city to have a look around. Surprisingly, something we’ve struggled with in Japan is finding a bar to sit and have a drink! Because everything is so compact, bars, restaurants etc. are often on the upper floors of buildings in the city centres, with just signs outside on the walls to tell you what’s on each floor. This is fine if you can read Japanese! We came a cropper again in Fukuoka thanks to our lack of understanding after we spotted a sign saying ‘Bar’ and headed up to the seventh floor. We found the right place and opened the door to find and very fancy looking place and two men in waistcoats sat smoking who looked quite surprised to see us. After they sorted themselves out we sat down and were handed a warm towel and told that there was a charge of ¥1,000 each (about £8) just for sitting down. We swiftly made our excuses and left! Click here to read more…


Mountains and Memorials

After 5 nights in Tokyo we were ready for a break from the neon and crowds, and were getting a bit claustrophobic in our tiny hotel room! We caught the bullet train back South to Hiroshima, our longest trip in Japan so far at 5 hours, but it was as easy as usual and flew by – much like the scenery outside!

Our hostel in Hiroshima was very new, and seemed to have been set up in an office block! Our room was huge but very sparse, with bright white strip lighting and office blinds. Comfortable enough though and nice to have some space! That evening we had little wander around the city, which is quite compact, and as you might expect quite modern. There was quite a wide range of restaurants, and we actually ended up going for an Indian – Chicken Tikka Masala went down very well after a while without curry! Click here to read more…


Fish and football in Tokyo

The next stop on our trip was Tokyo, and we made the short journey from Hakone on the Thursday. I did manage to lose my rail pass on the bus to the station, which would have been a very costly mistake, but after emptying my rucksack on the back seat of the crowded bus it turned up in the pocket of my other trousers! Gem managed to make friends with a woman at Odawara station, who ended up sat in the row in front of us on the train and proceeded to insist on sharing her lunch with us. She presented Gem with half a dozen bits of very fishy sushi. A bit too fishy for me it turned and i very nearly failed to keep it down, which would have been pretty embarrassing, so Gem had to finish off the rest. I polished off the very sticky rice cake and solid sweet potato cake instead!

We were in Tokyo by lunchtime, and then had to negotiate the relatively complicated Metro system, which includes two different subway companies, normal trains and various private lines – the map ends up looking like a plate of spaghetti, but we made it to our hotel without too many problems. Our room was tiny, with just enough room for very small double bed and an all-in-one self-contained bathroom cubicle. Accommodation in Tokyo was very expensive though so we were happy enough! Click here to read more…


Hot Springs and Naked Baths!

After some fairly hardcore sightseeing in Kyoto we moved on to Hakone for a few days of relaxing. This meant another trip on the bullet train, which is both very easy and very fast! On the two hour journey we passed close to Mount Fuji, which is quite an impressive sight!  We’d heard we might get to see it from our hotel in Hakone but only if it was a particularly clear day.

We arrived at Mishima station, where we had to catch a bus to connect to Hakone.  Details on what bus and where from were a bit hazy, but after asking several people and learning how to pronounce “Hakone” we managed to get our tickets and a couple of seats on the right bus.  The Japanese have been so kind and helpful, we’ve been really lucky.  The journey to Hakone from Mishima is only about 20km but it took about 50 minutes to climb the fairly steep mountain.  It was a bit like getting to a ski resort, but without the snow!  We saw lots more glimpses of Mount Fuji on the way, and Dan was hanging out the window of the bus trying (and failing!) to get some good photos! Click here to read more…


Colourful Kyoto

We woke up on Saturday morning rather hungover after the drunken karaoke scenes of the previous night.  After dragging ourselves out of bed we made it as far as the nearest McDonalds which perked us up sufficiently to leave Osaka and head to Kyoto.  We picked our Japanese Rail passes up at the station which allows us free rail travel on all JR lines (pretty much all trains) during our time in Japan.  We then collapsed onto the train and made the 20 minute journey north-east to Kyoto.

To be honest it was all a bit of a blur but we were rather proud of ourselves for making it before dark!  We hopped on the 206 bus, as instructed by the directions, and waited the obligatory 15 minutes.  Our stop hadn’t come up, so we thought me might be suffering in the Saturday afternoon traffic.  30 minutes into the journey and we finally realised all was not well.  We got off the bus and looked in a daze at the information on the stop.  None of it made much sense, what with it being in Japanese and all.  So we crossed the road to look for another bus stop.  Quite what we were doing I don’t know but I do know that when I saw a taxi and hailed it I felt much relief!  It turns out we were on completely the wrong side of town and (as we discovered the next day) had taken the bus in the wrong direction.  2,000 yen down, we trudged to our hostel and pretty much crashed out for the rest of the day!  We did make it out for a quick dinner of udon noodles, but that was about it!  We were staying in a 10 bed mixed dorm in Kyoto, which sounds fairly horrific, but we had a bunk bed with hospital-like curtains surrounding it so at least we could pass out in something like privacy! Click here to read more…


Su Zhou Hao, Seasickness, Sushi and Singing

We made the 46 hour journey across the Sea of Japan to Osaka on-board the Su Zhou Hao ferry, which was pretty good as ferries go! It had capacity for 270 people, but there only about 40 making the trip so it was nice and quiet. We booked to share in a 4 bed cabin, but because it was so empty we had the cabin to ourselves which was a bonus.  The ferry had a restaurant, a bar and we seemed well set… until we got out to open sea. Then the sea slowly started to get rougher, the waves gradually got bigger and the boat started to sway more and more. We were fine for an hour or so of this but eventually we gave in to the sea sickness and ended up in our bunks at about 6pm, where we stayed, barring a few brief trips to the outside deck, for the next 24 hours!  Luckily we didn’t actually succumb to throwing up but it was a close call on several occasions!  Frustratingly, on the last day on the boat, we spotted anti-seasickness tablets at the reception desk.  Not much use to us by that point!

Early on the second evening we moved into inshore waters between the southern islands of Japan and suddenly everything was fine again, and we managed to finally haul ourselves out of bed. We both sampled the Japanese baths (separate rooms for males and females with jacuzzi-like baths in them) and wolfed down some dinner – both pretty hungry by then! Click here to read more…