Monday, August 4, 2008

A whirlwind tour of Japan

Modern ojizosan
nifwlseirff on flickr
My trip to Japan was amazing and exhausting... including the earthquake which left me stranded in Sendai! ;> The lush greeness makes Australia look positively brown, especially during winter. I'm already saving for my next trip, but this time I must avoid the rainy season, and travel south to visit friends.

I was able to book hotels over a rather patchy mobile phone connection, and stumble my way through a very long conversation during a hike in Japanese, which I was very happy about.

My blue hair got mixed reactions from all ages - some loved it, some looked at me strangely then walked away. I was approached by one primary school group wanting to practice their English while in Nikko.

After a few days of huge amounts of walking on uneven ground, my ankle was unhappy, so I cut out a few hikes and visited a few more touristy places. Still, 220km walked during this trip!

I took about 1800 photos!

My itinerary and the weather looked something like below.

Narita: temples and park, overcast/patchy rain
Chuzenji ko: pouring and cold one day, gorgeous the next (warm and humid), hiked from Yuno ko to Chuzenji ko on the second day.
Nikko: temples, waterfalls, long walks and a stunning imperial villa, overcast/raining -- my favourite place - the sound of running water everywhere!

(3 days sleeping in Sendai - 3 different hotels :-\ )
Sendai: museum and castle ruins, hot and humid -- an incredible number of crows!
Hiraizumi: temples and a very long uphill walk/hike, very hot and humid -- lots of bugs
Sendai: earthquake... *pout* very hot and humid, and very frustrating. I didn't get to see Kakunodate this trip!

Hirosaki: samurai houses, town, zen temple precinct, castle grounds and parks, warm and overcast -- nice place!
Mount Iwate: Was gorgeous, but then the clouds rolled in and cancelled my hike down the mountain - visibility was incredibly poor, hot then mild and raining -- back to Hirosaki for an izakaya meal

(Hokkaido region)
Hakodate: town and night view from Mount Hakodate, hot and dry, then cold at night -- I am very short when compared to this generation of Japanese school kids.

Asahikawa: a long train trip from Hakodate, meant little sightseeing, very very hot and dry -- apparently it was a heatwave!

Wakkanai: northern shore, parks, small town (only one convenience store!), cold and raining.
Rebun/Rishiri: long day, ferry and bus tours, very cold and pouring. The mist stopped me from seeing much at all - not worth doing this in poor weather. Back to Wakkanai to defrost with warm sake and a good meal. Had there been good weather, this would have been a hike.

(I skipped Sapporo - didn't feel like visiting another city, and jumped back to Tohoku region....)
Wakkanai -> Morioka: 13 hours on 4 trains with a maximum of 10 minutes between each connection. Warm and humid.

Chuzenji ko: onsen and yummy food - it was pouring, so I didn't do my planned boat tour of the lake.

(Note to self and other non-Japan-residents - don't travel JR without a JR Pass.... awfully expensive!)
Tokyo: detached palace garden (Shiodome), very hot and humid. On Mondays most things are closed :-\
Tokyo: B arrived and we went shopping! (Yodobashi camera) Government building for the view from on high, then Ueno park, very hot and humid

Then to Germany (Bremen) for a whirlwind 3 days of catching up with family and friends and squeezing in some shopping, then a 54 hour trip home, only 8 hours of which is time difference...... *yuck*
From Japan I miss the food, cleanliness, green-ness, convenience stores and vending machines. :-) And the history... Australia is simply too young! I don't miss the insects!!!
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