So I’m back in Tokyo for my final night after seeing lots of other sights Japan has to offer, I was staying just outside of Hiroshima right by the ferry port to Miyajima for three nights and then went East to Kyoto for three nights. As I’m now at the end of my trip reflecting on my time here, Japan has been really great. The people are extremely polite and the food is fantastic, each place I’ve been has its own unique character, food and sights to see and things to do. The only thing I don’t recommend you do is eat sea urchin… It’s doesn’t taste good and is not worth it!
So me and Rhodri headed down from Toyko to Hiroshima and after sorting accommodation headed into the city to visit the peace park and also sample some of the delicious Okonomiyaki which a district of Hiroshima is famous for. We met a couple of friendly fellow travellers on the way and explored the monuments and memorials of the dark days when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It was definitely sobering visiting the site and learning a bit more about the history. We then went to check out a baseball game, I didn’t realise but baseball is huge in Japan and the stadium we were heading to for the game also was. Unfortunately we went on the wrong day… The next match was fully sold out so that wasn’t to be! So instead we headed to a local place to have some Okonomiyaki Rhodri recommended we checked out. So this dish is lots of veg and some meat all fried on top of an egg base, this is then flipped onto another egg and served with delicious sauce. I took a picture of our traveller buddies and the chef making the food which are above.
The next day me and Rhodri hopped on the ferry nice and early to avoid the tourists just past seven, we visited the famous floating torii gate which attracts people from far and wide and also had a stroll through the temple. Although the heat was still 30 plus and very humid we also decided to hike up the mountain, now it was pretty cloudy up there but it actually meant we got some pretty good shots of peaks through the cloud and it was all very mystical! After exploring pretty much all of the trails we could up the mountain we decided with the heat we’d get the gondola back down. We also saw loads of tame deer, they’re everywhere and really friendly, but they may eat any paper items you have… And the world’s largest rice scoop. It was all very exciting. After getting back to the hostel mid afternoon we chilled out for a bit, Rhodri headed into town to go to the museum (I admit, the rooftop hammock and a snooze were too good to miss out on) then we went with a group from the hostel to see some fireworks in a local town.
After finding ourselves a spot amongst the locals we watched the display which was pretty incredible. I also met a German father and son travelling together as well as a couple of men from Finland. One who kept trying to get me to ‘invest’ (buy) this random pair of pants he had acquired somewhere… It was all very strange but pretty hilarious. We got back at 11 and me and Rhodri decided to hit up an Onsen to relax at the end of the day, and because it’s super Japanese and I’d never been to one. So Onsens are effectively hot spring pools, the custom is that you’re completely naked and also you have to wash yourself on these little stools before and after. It was definitely a unique experience but one I would recommend, afterwards they even had a counter where they provided male grooming products so it’s like a personal mini man spa in a way. Unfortunately this was my last day with Rhodri as my travel buddy, so in my final day I rented a bike and explored some of the local area, had some ramen and generally took things a bit slower than over the last week.
So then it was time for Kyoto. Now I really didn’t know what to expect here as I had chosen it for it being closely located to Osaka and Kobe so I had the option of visiting both of I’d wanted. It turns out there was loads to do and see and I had a great time. So after arriving a bit keen and early to check it I ended up hanging around the hostel for a while and met a fellow traveller from Ireland Fiona who also didn’t have any plans. Luckily she was slightly more organised than me and had a list of things to check out that had been recommended, we ended up renting bikes and cycling pretty much across the city. In the end it was totally worth it, we first went to the Japanese Snow Monkey sanctuary where a shortish hike later you have stunning views over the city and more importantly lots of monkeys running around. There’s also a room where you can go in and feed them from the inside, so effectively it’s the opposite of a zoo with the people in the cage which was kind of cool. After that we checked out the bamboo path which was also pretty spectacular, especially when your experience of bamboo is small bits supporting plants up in suburban Surrey… We went for some sushi (first time on my trip, shocking I know… Mostly I had been eating ramen and BBQ) and I thought I’d be experimental and get conga eel and sea urchin. Now the conga eel was actually pretty great, the sea urchin was not. It looked like orange goo and didn’t taste good at all… The first food apart from cinnamon salt water taffy in Canada I haven’t liked and I try everything I can. So when we arrived back at the hostel we met a couple of Deutschmen and a girl from Australia, we all had a few beers, they all thought I looked like Chris Pratt (I was extremely flattered but didn’t quite see it, maybe it’s my ever improving travellers beard) then we ended up karaokeing until the early hours somewhere with unlimited beer.
This became a repeating pattern… The next day, a few of us rented bikes again to explore the other side of the city and some of the temples and gardens which were really beautiful. In the evening we had a couple of drinks, went down to check out the hostel bar then essentially dragged anyone who was keen with us to yet more karaoke! This turned into a great night, with about nine of us from all over the globe starting at midnight and going until close to five in the morning, with unlimited beer, all for the equivalent of about 10 pounds… Also this was a great example of the people side of travelling, all of us were solo travellers not having known each other for more than a couple of days, a couple of hours in some cases, and we had an English (yours truly), Irish, American, Canadian, Australian, Swedish, Indian, Venezuelan, Deutsch, and French all karaokeing the night away. Definitely a night I won’t forget.
After a lie in and the guilty moment when you get woken up by housekeeping cleaning close to midday, also the hilarious moment when half your dorm has missed check out because of karaoke infused antics, me and Fiona went to check out the torii gate paths in yet another area of the city. Walking off the hangover definitely helped and the gates just went on and on… We were probably walking a couple of hours at least the majority of which was through these gates, there were also lots of shrines etc along the way. So the final night was more subdued having been pretty karaoke’d out and also with a lot of our karaoke buddies having left that morning. I’ve spent today travelling back to Tokyo and am chilling out before I fly off to Bangkok tomorrow for my first Contiki where I’ll be visiting Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in just under a month. If it’s anything like the last one I should have a pretty awesome time…