07.05.2019 - 19.05.2019 20 °C
Well after more than ten weeks on the road it was bound to happen... I'm a little behind on my blogging. I'm writing this from Lima in Peru. I had hoped to get this written before departing Japan but the days just got away. We've now completed our time in Asia and you can see our route below starting in Tokyo, making our way south before a few days in South Korea and then back to Japan as we made our ascent from Fukuoka up to Hiroshima and Nagano before our final few days in Tokyo.
We spent our first few days back in Japan in Fukuoka, primarily as it served as cheap hub to re-enter the country. And honestly there isn't a whole lot to do so if you're travelling through the southern part of Japan by train you can probably leave it off your list. It was nice to spend a few days in a lesser known city and with an apartment in the middle of town we almost felt like bonafide locals. They've got a lovely park here known as the Marine Park Uminonakamichi which is located on a narrow cape. Its colorful and exotic flowers are its main attraction.
Next up was Hiroshima. As you probably well know Hiroshima is regrettably best known for the atomic bomb dropped on it during World War Two. The Peace Memorial Park is not an easy place to visit emotionally speaking but it is a must in Hiroshima. It houses a collection of items salvaged from the aftermath of the bombing and features videos of Japanese civilians who survived but lost many family members and friends. I remember learning about this in school but being here in person it really hit home just how much suffering these people went through. 200,000 people died as a result of the bombing and even though it was more than 70s years ago their memory is alive and well thanks to people who live here and its visitors. You can see below a photograph of a woman paying her condolences and below that a memorial service at the Genbaku Dome, the only building that was purposely left unrepaired afterwards. We were fortunate to witness a school memorial with songs sung by children who made paintings and candles in memory of those who lost their lives. It was very touching and we were glad we could pay our respects.
Hiroshima has much to offer as a destination. We enjoyed a really nice trip to Hiroshima Castle and a day at Miyajima, a small island off the coast and one of Japan's most visited tourists spots.
It was a long trip north to our next stop in Nagano. It didn't help that our train got stuck by an hour and a half and although we had Game of Thrones to keep us company it took us a good eight hours to get there. It was well worth the trip though as it's a beautiful town and it gave us the opportunity to experience one of Japan's mountainous regions. Its home to the Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan's most famous temples.
We were also able to visit the Snow Monkey park in the Joshinestu Kogen National Park. It's a conservation area that provides refuge to the monkeys and allows visitors to observe them up close without any cages or space restrictions. They are free to leave at any time but generally stay close by for the local onsens/outdoor hot spa! During the winter they bath in the water and although we had hoped to see them indulge in a natural jacuzzi we were out of luck given that summer is only around the corner. The monkeys are adorably cute and it was heart warming to watch them in action.
On our final day in Nagano we checked out of our hotel in the city and took a bus into the mountains to a Ryoken, a traditional Japanese homestay. We had been really looking forward to this and it didn't disappoint. Sliding doors, matted floors, beds on the ground... it was as Japanese as we could have hoped for. We had the most wonderful host who cooked us a delicious dinner and breakfast the following morning.
Say cheese... I think my clothing added about thirty pounds. #Don't judge me...
The next day our host gave us a departing gift of matcha Kit Kats (green tea flavour) and then took us to a beautiful nearby lake and then a Ninja museum/escape house which was challenging and a lot of fun. She even took part too.
Our host insisted on paying our entry fee into the Ninja attraction and drove us back to the city at no extra cost. This was Japanese hospitality at its finest and we couldn't leave our 10/10 review on Booking.com quick enough afterwards. If you're ever in the Nagano region check out the Yadoya Shiroganeya you won't be disappointed. There's even a little onsen so you can relax in a hot Japanese bath.
Our final few days were spent back in Tokyo. We had packed so many things in only a few weeks earlier we very happy just to revisit some of our favourite areas in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara. We also checked out the restaurant where part of Kill Bill was filmed, very thrilling if you're a major fan like we are!
And that concludes our time in Japan. We had the highest expectations and they were definitely met. There's such a variety of attractions, history, culture and quirky experiences on offer all we can say is get Japan on your travel bucket list if you haven't yet been! The Japanese people are the most polite we've ever met and as I said in a previous post you'd struggle to find litter anywhere, not to mention crime (not to say it doesn't exist). We could learn a lot from them when it comes to honour and respect.
So what's next? Well it's the tail end of the trip and as mentioned in our first entry Alberto is spending the next few weeks with his family and friends in Spain before we relocate home to Dublin. I've had South America on my list for quite some time now so I've signed myself up for a three week group tour with Intrepid Travel. I've been in Peru just a few days mostly relaxing but tomorrow is the first day of the trip. Sayōnara for now.