Author Archives: Fiona

Nara to Kyoto, Japan

Tuesday 21st May 2024
Well we are moving on this morning. Next stop Kyoto.

We packed up and were on our way We managed the first part of our travel from Nara to Kyoto oaky but then struggled when we got to Kyoto to find the subway. We spent about 15mins trying to find our way underground and then went outside to get our bearings again. We then found our way to the subway quite easily. Then to our hotel which is directly across the road from the subway exit. Another great location and reasonably cheap one at that for a city stay.

We checked in some luggage and were on our way to explore.First stop, was to the supermarket to buy some lunch. For under $11 we had sushi, some mine bacon  scrolls and I had some prawn broccoli mix. We found a little park just up the street to eat lunch as there is no eating allowed on the street. They also have many other polite habits. Basically don’t do anything that will interfere with others. There is also no litter which is quite surprising as there is also no bins around. Everyone just takes their rubbish home with them.

After lunch we successfully caught our first bus. At the bus stop I spoke to a young man there. First in Japanese and then English. He explained that you get on the bus at the middle door and scan your IC card as you exit via the front door. It all went off without a hitch. Our first sightseeing stop was to be the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) but David found another temple just across the road from the bus stop for us to visit first. So we climbed up to the Takeisao (Kenkun) Shrine . This was quite deserted with only a couple of Japanese tourists there which is quite amazing as it is only a five minute walk from the Golden Pavilion. There was a beautiful view of the city at the top and an interesting shrine.

We then headed to the Kinkakuji, and it was so overcrowded and it was difficult to capture a good photo due to the crowds. It was an amazing sight, a golden shrine, it was very beautiful. It cost 500Y each and we did a loop trail and then exited, only about a 30min walk at the most. There is no way to get back for a 2nd look as you would be walking against the flow of traffic and it would be impossible, which was a shame. I tried to go back in via the front gate but because I had my ticket in my hand before I got to the ticket box I was turned around. Oh well, it was worth a try.

As we were finished at the Golden Pavilion by about 3pm, David threw another side trip in before we headed back to the apartment. Although part way on the bus he was sorry he had as he was falling asleep, we then caught another train. It was called the Fushima Inari-taisha Shrine. We finally arrived and were amazed at the crowds here as it was very late in the afternoon. We did a 4km loop walk up to Mt Inara and the Inari Shrine as well as walking through all the tori gates. This was incredible and also impossible to capture as there were so many people, you were forever dodging peoples photos and as soon as you were ready to take a photo someone jumped in the way. We saw many shrines in the higgledy piggledy stairways.

On the way home we got on the wrong bus at Kyoto and instead of a quick 15min bus trip, we went about 30mins and arrived at the Yasaka Shrine where we did a quick lantern photo trip around the grounds before heading back top catch 2 trains back home.

It was once again a massive day and David was happy as he thought we only had one more day to do the rest of the Kyoto sightseeing. He forgot we had 2 full days to go. Maybe we can go a bit slower tomorrow. We had a quick bite to eat at the cafe style restaurant across the road where we had teriyaki chicken and rice with soft boiled egg. The egg comes still in its shel, you crack a gold in the egg and it is soft enough to just fall out the hole. It was quite a yummy dinner and different to the ramen we have had for the last few nights.

Takeisao (Kenkun) Shrine is also known as the Kenkun-jinja Shrine. This shrine is to worship the god of fulfillment of major warfare, breaking through, and good fortune. The deity is dedicated to Nobunaga Oda to commemorate the way he lived his life as he pushed forward bravely and unwaveringly towards the unification of Japan. One of the four shrines that protect Kyoto in the four cardinal directions, it protects Kyoto from the north. Oda Nobunaga, a daimyō and key figure in the unification of Japan during the late 16th century, is deified and buried inside. It was established in 1869 and founded by Emperor Meiji.”

“Kinkakuji ( Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later. Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955. Kinkakuji was built to echo the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu’s times. Each floor represents a different style of architecture.”

Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 metres and belongs to the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.

“There are several theories about the origin of Yasaka Jinja Shrine. According to the record of the shrine, the history of Yasaka Jinja Shrine may go back as far as 656 (Asuka Era), the second year of the reign of Emperor Saimei. Irishi, an errand from Korea, brought the spirit of Susanoo-no-mikoto to this place.
Besides this vies, in Jogan Era, 876, a Buddhist priest from Nara Prefecture, Ennyo, had built a temple, and enshrined Susanoo-no-mikoto, the deity of the region.

Train travel
Nara to Kyoto (Shijo Omiya) – 940Y each
Explore Kyoto – 1330Y each

Nara, Japan – Day 2

Monday 20th May 2024
Well if you thought we were going hard the last few days, we just went harder.

We were up again early and on our way by 7.30ish. First stop is the Kasuga Grand Shrine, this was about a 3 km walk. It was an amazing shrine but we were on a mission, so only a look from the outside today. It was fascinating to watch the young workers in their traditional gear, go about their early morning preparations for the onslaught of the tourists. I had wanted to attend the prayer ritual, but was a little nervous, so gave it a miss this time.

We then had a change of plans. David had decided on stage 2 of the Yamanobe-no-michi Trail, which is a 35km an ancient road through the countryside. So Stage 2 was about 17km and he was able to route a trail and he couldn’t really find that facility for Stage 1. As the start of Stage 1 was at the Kasuga-Taisha temple, we decided to do this as well which meant we would walk 35km today, or so we thought.

So off we go, it took us a while to find to the first trail sign but we did find one still.  That was a bonus.  The walk left the temple grounds through a lovely lush like forest and we came out on to local suburban streets. We meandered left and right hoping we were going in the right direction as signage was minimal. We passed a couple of local shrines, the Shin Yakusiji shrine and then continued on, the we took a side street to the Byakugoji Temple, where we thought we would just have a look on the outside but the gatekeeper who was a very old little lady came over to charge us. She had no English so we just paid for the privilege of seeing inside the temple. It was very beautiful and in the end we were happy to give a donation as it was a private viewing and they probably don’t get many tourists there. We also enjoyed the beautiful view down to the city.

We then carried on passed the Shirayamahime and Shimada Shrines, the Enshoji and the Yamacho Shrine (which sat in a big pond and looked beautiful) before we took a wrong turn up behind the pond for about 2 or 3 km in the wrong direction. When we realised our mistakes we headed back the same way and found our way back to start over. We walked through old streets, passed old and new homes, farms, rice paddies, bamboo forests and shrines. It was a very interesting day with many problems with navigation. We went up to the Shoriyakuji temple which was 3km in to find it closed and we had to walk 3km back. At this temple we saw a sign which showed we could have followed our previous wrong turn a little further and come out at the Shoriyakuji temple. Our 17km 1st stage became 35km and we did’t have time for stage 2. Our last shrine at the end of stage 1 was the Isonokami Jingu Shrine which was incredible. We looked in many different shrines today of all different sizes. It was a very interesting day. After walking so far we then caught the train back 12km from Tenri to Nara, grabbed a quick bite to east and fell exhausted in to bed.

Kasuga-Taisha, also known as Kasuga Grand Shrine, was established in the year 768 to protect the Heiji-kyo national capital and bless its citizens with peace. The shrine houses four deities – Takemikazuchi-no-Mikoto, Futsunushi-no-Mikoto, Amanokoyane-no-Mikoto, and Himegami – to whom visitors can offer prayers.

One highly recommended activity is attending the chohai morning worship ritual, which was opened to the public to celebrate the 1300-year memorial of the capital’s transfer to Nara. The morning ritual is a sight to behold, with unmatched purity and beauty.

The Yamanobe-no-michi Trail (山辺の道) is an ancient road in Nara Prefecture and the oldest road mentioned in Japanese records. Today, it is a pleasant hiking trail through rural landscape, connecting multiple shrines, temples and other sites of interest. The most popular section stretches approximately eleven kilometers from Omiwa Shrine in Sakurai City to Isonokami Shrine in Tenri City, from where the trail continues northwards to Nara City. It is predominantly a dirt trail, but sometimes becomes paved as it meanders through small villages. Red signs point the way at various points along the trail (sometimes not enough).

Shin Yakusiji shrine Founded in 747 by Empress Komyo to pray for the recovery of her husband, all that remains after several fires is the main hall housing a seated Yakushi Nyorai, believed to heal the sick. The Buddha is surrounded by statues of the Twelve Heavenly Generals, the oldest examples in Japan, and famous for the exquisite quality of their carving. Smaller structures including the main gates, the Ojizo hall and the belfry are architecturally significant. The belfry is part of a local legend; it is said an oni (ogre) that terrorized the town was ambushed by the belfry and chased away. Large scratch marks on the bell are said to be the oni’s claw marks.

Byakugoji Temple   is said it was built on the ruins of a mountain cabin of Shiki no Mikoto, the seventh prince of Tenji Emperor. There are several Important Cultural Properties at the shrine such as the sitting statue of Amitabha Tathagata and a sitting statue of Yamaraja, the Judge of the afterlife. The precinct at the top of the 100 steps stone stairway is also known as a scenic spot overviewing Nara City. Founded by the monk Hodo in 705, the principal object of worship is a hidden hibutsu image brought from India of Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai. The temple was destroyed by fire during Akechi Mitsuhide’s attack on Tamba but was rebuilt in the late 1500s. Along with cherries and azaleas, the temple features a wisteria variety known as kyushaku-fuji with clusters reaching as long as 180 centimeters. They spread along a 120-metre wisteria trellis that’s a sight to behold when in full bloom. The Kyushaku-fuji Festival is held to coincide with the flowering of the wisteria and sees a flood of tourists come to the temple every year.

At the southern end of stage 1 of the trail stands Isonokami Shrine, surrounded by trees. It used to be the family shrine of the Mononobe Clan, a leading, conservative clan during the early stages of Japanese history that was ultimately defeated by its more progressive rivals. The shrine still stores some of the clan’s ancient weapons, but they are not put on public display.

Tenrikyo Church Headquarters is the main headquarters of the Tenrikyo religion, located in Tenri, Nara, Japan. This establishment is significant to followers because it is built around the Jiba, the spot where followers believe the god Tenri-O-no-Mikoto conceived humankind.

Train travel
Tenri to Nara – 210Y each

Nara, Japan – Day 1

Sunday 19th May 2024
Well, today we changed the program. We set the alarm and we were up and on our way by 7.15am. A new record this holiday.

First stop today was to Todai-ji Daibutsuden (The Great Buddha Hall). The aim was to get there before the million people arrived. The gates open at 7.30am and we were there by about 7.45am. We were not the first people there but we were definitely one of the few. It was great to be there and able to take some photos and enjoy the spectacular Great Buddha Hall with only a few people. It was very peaceful. The grounds were magnificent and the open space makes the Hall seem even more amazing. The Great Buddha was incredible in size and detail. The spiritual significance and respect shown by the Japanese is incredible. They have such a quiet and solemn demeanour and approach the statues with reverence. I enjoy watching them. There were many buildings to see including the Nandai-mon Gate, the Daibutsu-den Hall, the Belfry, the Shunjo-do Hall, the Sammai-do Hall (Shigatsu-do), the Hokke-do Hall (Sangatsu-do), the Kaisan-do Hall, the Nigatsu-do Hall, the Tegai-mon Gate, the Kaiden-in. We spent all morning here as the crowds grew. We walked around the whole grounds of the temple, through some of the buildings. I spoke to a teacher who was there with a group of students (we had seen quite a few school groups over the last few days) and they were on a two day school trip. Like all kids, they were excitable with the deer and some were afraid. We were really happy we made the effort to get up early.

We then walked through the grounds and went further afield to the Tegai-mon Gate. By the time we reached here there were no more tourist, just us roaming the streets. We were fortunate when we arrived at “Goko-In Temple” that the gates were open and a lady allowed us in. It was magnificent and the statue and altar was adorned in gold. We had a lovely conversation in English with the lady who had been to Sydney and had an English teacher from Armidale. I tried out some Japanese as well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

We then headed back via the shopping street and decided on a hot lunches it had been raining all morning and was a little cool. Last nights ramen for me and fried rice and pork dumplings for Dave. Then back to the hotel for a well earned rest. We have walked 14km over the last 5 hours.

“Todai-ji, is an ancient temple complex in Nara, Japan. Founded in 738 CE and officially opened in 752 CE when Nara was the capital, the temple is the headquarters of the Buddhist Kegon sect. The temple has a 500-ton sculpture of the Buddha, best known in Japan as the Nara Daibutsu, which is the largest bronze statue in the world, housed in the largest wooden building in the world. Todaiji is also home to thousands of precious art objects and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The Great Buddha Hall is the Main Hall (kondō) of Tōdai-ji. Built first in the Nara period it has been destroyed twice by fire in 1180 and again in 1567. The present structure, dating to the Edo period, was built under the direction of the monk Kōkei. The original hall and the one rebuilt in 1195, were both eleven bays wide; the present structure, however, was reduced in size to seven bays because only limited funds were available. Nevertheless, the height and depth of the structure remain the same as those of the original. The Great Buddha Hall is the largest wooden structure in the world. [Dimensions] Width 57.012m, Length 50.480m, Height 48.742m”

The Bell Tower which soars conspicuously into the sky was built between 1207 and 1210 by the Zen priest Yōsai (1141-1215), who succeeded Chōgen, the figure who made the greatest mark in restoring the temple at the start of the Kamakura period, as Chief Solicitor. The elegant structure combines certain aspects of the Zen style of architecture with the “Daibutsu style.” The bell, which weighs 26.3 tons, dates from the time of the founding of Tōdai-ji. One of the Three Famous Bells of Japan, it is known for its long ring.

“The introduction of Buddhism – How Buddhism Came Down to Japan
Buddhism is the teachings of Sakyamuni born as a prince of the Sakyas living on the border between India and Nepal in the 6th century B.C. (or the 5th century B.C.). When he was young, Sakyamuni became a priest, deeply worried about the life, aging, illness and death of man. Through self-mortification and meditation for about 6 years, he became awakened as Buddha. He spread the teaching that everyone has a possibility to become an awakened one, as well as the way to Buddhahood (spiritual enlightenment). At that time, Japanese people lived in pit-houses, hunting animals and collecting plants, which is called the Jomon period. Sakyamuni preached the teachings for 45 years, and passed away at the age of 80. Then, his disciples spread Buddhism throughout India. Around 270 B.C., Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty recommended Buddhism, and it became widespread. It is said that Buddhism came down to Japan in 538 (or in 552) from Baekje via Gandhara and Bamiyan through the Silk Road.”

Osaka to Nara, Japan

Saturday 18th May 2024
Thank goodness we had a bit of a slower day today.

We were hoping to get David’s phone screen fixed this morning as he dropped it yesterday. The shop opened at 11am, so we started out a little late. Unfortunately it couldn’t be down this morning so we started on our way. It is time to move on from Osaka. David took a while to determine if we needed a special ticket or we could use the IC card, which is just like a tap on tap off Opal Card. I went downstairs and checked with reception (answer YES) whilst DB read copious amounts of information online.

Next stop Nara.

Once again, the Osaka Loop Metro line had us fooled. David found the correct entrance okay, albeit on the wrong side of the road but we still couldn’t find directions to the Osaka Loop Line. We both had different options for our travel today. I wanted to go via the Misujodi line with 1 change at Namba because we always found this platform easier. David wanted to go with the no change option from the Osaka Loop Line. Easier with no changes, just finding the starting platform was once again a problem. I get a little stressed and too cool for school David, just goes with the flow. I worry about missing the train, he just says we will get the next one. Once again we finally managed to find the platform, we were at the right entrance just need to go further in to the station to get more specific direction. We still managed to get the train on time, although we did give ourselves extra time allowance, an extra 30mins than google said. The platforms were so organised, coloured lines for the destination line you were travelling on. We also managed a seat together after about 15mins.

We had a quiet train ride to Nara, via some countryside. On arrival we had some lunch from the train station. This always poses a problem as you never see anyone eating in public. Also it is the cleanest country we have been to so far, but there are no rubbish bins to be found. Lunch done, we walked to our hotel. Love the new packing system, no wheelie bags, Just our backpacks and a sling for me. It is so easy, especially on the trains and walking the streets. Love it! When we arrived at the hotel. No human service. We checked our bags in at an automated baggage hold. Another new experience and then went for a walk around town.

First stop – to check out the supermarket then to the Kohfukuji Temple, very busy and we just had a look at it from the outside. Then on through Nara Park where we fed the deer. Then on to the Yoshikien Garden which were so beautiful. The Japanese are so proud of their gardens. We then headed to the Todaiji Temple which houses a big buddha. After this we went back to the hotel for a bit of a rest. Woohoo! This afternoon we just did a quick tour of the area and will go back for more detail tomorrow.

After a restful afternoon we headed out for some dinner in the street food plaza. Just the usual stuff plus more, squid and octopus on a stick, cotton candy, lollies on a stick. We decided on a sit down meal in a cafe/restaurant where we ordered on a screen again. We had some very tasty ramen plus a small fried rice. It was a very nice meal. We did some more groceries and headed back to the hotel. Unpacked and in bed by 10.3pm. Yeah!

“Kohfukuji Temple – With a history of more than 1,300 years, Kohfukuji is one of Japan’s oldest and most famous Buddhist temples.”

“Yoshikien Garden – There are three unique gardens within Yoshikien: a pond garden, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden.”

“Todai-ji Temple, known for its “Daibutsu-san,” or Great Buddha, is a representative temple in Nara, with an imposing appearance of the largest wooden structure in the world. This is a famous temple of the Kegon sect and was founded by Roben. It is one of the most impressive temples in Japan, and plays a major role in Japanese history through the ages.”

Train travel
Osaka to Nara – 820Y each

Osaka, Japan – Day 3

Friday 17th May 2024
Osaka – Mino-O, Namba and Nagai
It was another big day. We are going to need a rest day soon. We are both burning the candle at both ends, as well as walking out legs off. We managed to navigate th trains and subways a little better today, a little strain at Osaka-Umeda station, but after that it was a couple of regional trains. Phew! We walked 24km today, travelled on the train and the subway. We walked from Mino_O Train station to Ryuan-ji Temple and Mino waterfall.These were both very beautiful and the grounds and buildings of the temple were beautiful. The pathway was adorned with the most beautiful Maple Trees. It was great to get out in to open spaces and the bush after out couple of days in the city. Then we walked further to the Katsuo-ji Temple, and then did the return walk back down the hill to Mino-O Station. It was a big walk, about 15km along a path and the roadway.

By this time it was 6pm, we headed to Namba for some more street food, which today we had in a little restaurant. We had pork and vegetable with noodle in a  soy broth, rice and pork dumplings. It was very good but unfortunately we had to rush to as we were due at the TeamLab show at Nagai by 7.30pm. This was another few trains and a 10min walk.

Once there, we walked around the botanical gardens who actions were lit up with lights in art form. It was a great walk.We then headed home on a couple of trains and the subway and walked 1km to our home in the main suburb of Osaka. We are both totally shattered but home a little earlier tonight, it was only 9.30pm..

“Ryuan-ji Temple is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Japan continues to attract worshippers even today. It is known as a place visited by high priests who supported Buddhism in Japan, including Gyoki, Kukai, and Nichiren. The temple is the birthplace of lotteries in Japan.”

Katsuo-ji Temple is filled with character – picture panoramic views, a mist-covered bridge over koi fish ponds and a vermilion pagoda. Oh, and it’s literally covered in Daruma dolls, Japan’s recognizable symbol of good luck. Located north of Osaka City in the forested region of Mino, it is a charming getaway from the buzz of the city’s urban sprawl. Known as the “temple for winner’s luck” and the “temple that wins against monarchs,” prayers made here have healed emperors and assisted shoguns to gain many conquests.”

“The significance of Daruma Dolls – What’s intriguing about Katsuo-ji is that the temple and its grounds are strewn with innumerable dolls tucked into every nook and cranny. The quirky red dolls — though you may see some in black and a few other colors — were modeled after the founder of Zen Buddhism who apparently sat so long in meditation that his arms and legs fell off! Hence the dolls’ round shape. The ones at this temple are called kachi-Daruma (winning Daruma.) Legend has it that a wish or goal written on a daruma doll here will come true. Write your goal on the bottom of the doll and the steps you will take to achieve it on its back, then say a prayer and paint in the doll’s right eye while fervently keeping your goal in mind. Take the doll home and display it somewhere prominent where it will motivate you. Once your goal has been achieved, draw in the other eye and return the daruma to the temple. It’s an inspiring sight to see the stack of daruma at Katsuo-ji, all signifying wishes fulfilled.”

“teamLab’s art project Digitized Nature explores how nature can become art. The concept of the project is that non-material digital technology can turn nature into art without harming it.

As the artworks in this exhibition are influenced by the trees and birds that live in the garden, if the wildlife disappear, the artworks will also disappear. The trees and birds cannot be separated from the ecosystem such as the garden’s forest or lake, so if the environment is not sustained, the trees and birds will cease to exist, and as a consequence, the artworks as well. The artworks’ existence is not defined by their physical surface boundaries, but is continuous and ambiguous with its surrounding environment.

The artworks transform interactively, influenced by wind, rain, as well as by the behavior of the people in it, making the environment and the people a part of the works. The people and the artworks, the trees, the forest and the lake, the ecosystem and the environment, all form a continuity without boundaries.”

Train travel
Umeda to Nagai – 290Y each
Nagai to Namba – 290Y
Namba to Umeda – 240Y
Umeda to Mino-O – 280Y
Mino-O to Umeda – 280Y

 

Osaka, Japan – Day 2

Thursday 16th May 2024
Our second day in Osaka, was no slower than the first. We headed out a little later than expected at about 10am. We were off to Universal Studios today. This involved a 3km walk Osaka-Umeda Station and 2 trains to get there. Unfortunately for us Osaka Train Station is huge and we took a very long time to navigate the tunnels and find the correct platform. The directions are to enter via the South Gate, now if you can find the South Gate it would be a whole lot easier. It probably took us 30-40 mins to find the gate, walking through tunnel after tunnel, up and down lifts. In the end we found an exit, went outside and used GPS to find the entrance to the South Gate instead. We then caught 2 trains and arrived at Universal Studios at about 11.30am. A long time considering the train ride was only 20mins. Oh well, we can only get better.

We bought some lunch at the 7-eleven before heading to the Universal Studios entrance. Unfortunately for us, at the gate were signs saying you couldn’t take any food or drinks in with you, so we ate outside and stored everything else in a locker nearby. Its pretty annoying that you can’t take any food in as the only food available inside is fried food and sugary junk food. Also some of the prices are exorbitant (6900Y or $69 for a whole pizza), you would have to be mad to pay that much.

We thought we would only spend a few hours here but surprised ourselves and spent the whole day there, 8 hours walking around again. The whole place is an amazing spectacle with bright colours and interesting characters and buildings. Most of the buildings housed souvenirs and movie character toys, clothes, hats, keyring, etc. A big money spinner. We were amazed how many people bought hats, clothes and toys.

We went to many shows – A Sing Show, Waterworld Show (Like Mad Max but on water), A rock and Roll Show, a 3D-4D Show. They were all really good and great entertainment. We managed to walk through all the areas including Harry Potter World, the Minions, Jurassic Park, Hollywood, Sesame Street, Snoopy and much more! At about 6pm the rain clouds came over and there was a mass exit of people. We decided to stay and try our luck on a couple of rides as the wait times during the day were about 70-120mins. Too long for us. We managed 2 rides with wait times of 15-25mins, which we think were even less. We went on the Jaws Ride which was a boat ride with a shark attack along the way. Then we went on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, this was a roller coaster ride indoors with interactive illusions along the way. It was amazing.

We finally left at about 7.30pm and were able to take a couple of snaps of the places under lights as we made our way to the exit.

The train station was very crowded as you can imagine as the theme parks had been so crowded. Although we did manage to squeeze on the first train. We also managed to find the correct two trains to get us to Namba.

We went to the Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, which is another amazing arcade that runs forever. It has a huge number of shops, neon signs and there were soooo many people. We enjoyed some market street food for dinner – we had Takoyaki which was really nice. We keep experimenting with traditional Japanese food very opportunity we get. We walked around the shopping street until we were too tired to continue. We the took another 2 trains home and managed to find our way quite well this time.

On the walk home we enjoyed a fresh crepe, fruit and cream for dessert. It was another fantastic day.

“Shinsaibashi-Suji Shopping Street, which runs east to Mido-Suji Avenue, is the best-known shopping area in Osaka, and an enduring symbol of the city. With a history of 380 years, it was already an established shopping area in the Edo Period. Shops of all kinds and for all ages line the street, a roofed arcade 600 meters long. There are traditional kimono tailors, western clothing and footwear retailers, restaurants and fast food outlets, jewelers, and boutiques featuring the latest fashions. It?’s great to take a casual stroll through the Shinsaibashi area. Many people enjoy window-shopping and savoring the food along the way. Visitors to this street number about 60,000 on weekdays and about 120,000 on weekends and holidays.”

“Takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special molded pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger (beni shoga), and green onion (negi). The balls are brushed with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, and then sprinkled with green laver (aonori) and shavings of dried bonito (katsuobushi).”

Train travel
Umeda to Shinsaibashi – 240Y each
Osaka Namba to Nishikujo – 220Y
Nishikujo to Universal City – 170Y
Universal City to Osaka – 190

Osaka, Japan – Day 1

Wednesday 15th May 2024
Well, here we go again!

We were up early this morning and on our way for a big day of walking. A quick trip to the “konbini” convenience store/7eleven for a few grocery supplies. Some bananas, nuts and chocolate. The start of our healthy diet. Haha!! Then off we go, we then stopped at another couple of konbini where we bought some more nuts and looked at other options. It is always interesting the first few times you go into a store, learning the way to shop, pay and communicate. All part of the adventure. I try really hard to talk in their language and it always gives them a few laughs and definitely breaks the ice. The Japanese are so polite and respectful. It is very pleasant.

We went for a walk through Ogimachi – the local park near our hotel. It had a lovely playground for the children, a nice albeit unmowed tree filled path and an area of sand which we really don’t know what it is used for, maybe a sporting arena.

We then headed to the Osaka Castle where we spent a few hours exploring its internal museum as well as the surrounding park, with moats and beautiful gardens. The crowds at the castle increased quickly and we experienced some delays as we climbed the 8 storeys inside. By the time we left it was very crowded. The views of the city at the 8th floor was amazing and stretched away in to the distance. It was interesting to see some Japanese in traditional dress – kimonos in the grounds of the castle. After circumnavigating the inner moat of the castle we headed back towards our hotel.

We went via the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine which was a lot less visited and much more our style of attraction. We spent about an hour walking around looking at all the amazing buildings, shrines and the grounds. It was very interesting.

We went through an arcade (Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street) near the shrine that would have been at least a kilometre long, so I thought – read below for more information. The arcade had a variety of stall like shops from pharmacy, food and even a market stall that sold train lost property. There were hundreds. We found some of the most amazing strawberries that were so “oiishi” tasty.

We then continued on our way back to the hotel via the large supermarket where we managed to find cereal, soy milk, sultanas, chocolate and some fruit. Once again, a little time consuming but at least we can have a little bit of normal food along with the experimental and interesting Japanese cuisine.

We arrived back at our hotel at 4pm, having walked 17km over 7 hours. We are a little tired and are having a bit of a rest now, watching some sumo wrestling on the television before heading out for dinner and some sightseeing under lights.

After a long rest we headed out for dinner, back to the Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street where we had Okonomiyaki – a Traditional Japanese pancake. Then a Green Tea and Vanilla ice cream cone/biscuit. Then a long walk back to the Osaka Castle which was beautifully lit. Then home again.

We decided to try the train home as it was another 65 mins walk home and only 27min on the train. Oops, 80mins later with a few wrong turns, a wrong platform/line and the wrong train. Followed by 2 more trains and we were home again having walked another 9kms.

Time for a snooze before another big day tomorrow.

“Osaka Castle, or “Osaka-jo” in Japanese, is certainly one of the most famous landmarks in Japan, and for good reason. This five-story castle is one of the most visually spectacular creations in the country, with a history that dates back almost 450 years! It is arguably Osaka’s most prominent landmark and belies bloody power struggles leading up to the 1603 foundation of the Edo era. While its history dates back to 1583, the landmark main tower that is the castle’s icon was only re-constructed in 1931.”

“Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, founded in the 10th century, is one of the most important of hundreds of shrines across Japan that are devoted to Tenjin, the Shinto deity of scholarship, who in turn has been associated with the Heian Period scholar Sugawara Michizane. Osaka Tenmangu Shrine has been destroyed by fire a number of times during its history, and its current main hall (honden) and main gate date back to 1845. Osaka Tenmangu is famous for its festival, the Tenjin Matsuri, which is held annually on July 24 and 25 and is ranked as one of Japan’s top three festivals besides Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri. During the festival, the shrine’s deity is paraded in a divine palanquin (mikoshi) through the city in a joyful land and river procession, accompanied by fireworks.”

“Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street A 2.6km-long shopping street starting at Tenjinbashi, reaching Tenjinbashisuji 7 chome to the north. It is said to be the longest in Japan, taking about 40 minutes to walk its length. Note the Welcome Doll above the entrance. Once inside the arcade, approx. 800 stores; old-fashioned diners, delicatessen, knife shops of long tradition, a tea store established in 1868, tofu, croquettes, chinaware and kimono. It flourished in the Edo era as a town for “Osaka Tenmangu Shrine” in 2 chome, dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, god of studies. It developed into the commercial town it is today in the Meiji era. The recreation of this town in the Edo, Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras is in the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living in 6 chome. The Tenjin Festival is held on July 24 and 25 every year with portable shrines parading here, outdoor stalls and performances filling the air with spirits.”

Train travel
Umeda to Yodoyabashi – 190Y each
Oebashi to Nakanoshima – 230Y
Nakanoshima top Temmabashi – 230Y

Davistown to Osaka, Japan

14th May 2024
Well it has been a very big day.

We finally left for Japan this morning at 5.15pm. We travelled by Uber to Gosford Station ($41) and then caught the 5.38am train to Central and then the airport. We arrived at the airport by 7.26am. We were very early as we decided to purchase an extra 7kg onboard, which meant we had no under carriage luggage. Therefore we just had to go through border control which wasn’t very busy at all. We then spent the next couple of hours just sitting around.

We boarded the plane for a 10.20am departure and enjoyed a couple of movies, a chat with our neighbour and a 10 hour flight to Osaka, Japan.

On arrival to Osaka which had a  runway in the water we did the mandatory, customs and border control which went by uneventful. Then it was time to do a bit of organisation. SIM cards in, find an ATM for some cash (in Sydney we could have bought 76 Japanese Yen for $1, but in the ATM here we got 102 JPY for $1), buy the travel IC card and then find the Airport Limousine (bus) to head to the hotel. It was a 44min bus ride in to the city. I tried our a few Japanese words – Thankyou (arigato gozamas) was my first to the bus driver and then Good Evening, my name is Fiona Broadbent.. Hopefully we get better.

It was now after 10.30pm and we were just heading out for dinner. This was quite funny. We chose a little restaurant which had touch screens for ordering. We were so slow choosing that we were timed out and had to go through the process about 4 times. We kept ourselves entertained. We had a lovely little meal of miso soup, stir fried pork and veggies, rice and a soft drink and David had Pork something else. It is interesting learning the way they eat and you just have to watch what the locals are doing.

Then back to the hotel via the convenience store to try to buy breakfast. Unfortunately there was no cereal, so instead we had an ice cream. Surprise, surprise.

Even toileting is an adventure. Bidet settings, a heated seat and it took a few minutes to find the flush. All in a days adventure in a new country.

It is now after midnight and we are absolutely exhausted. No time for planning tomorrows adventure we will just have to go with the flow.

Gurley to Davistown NSW

Thursday 14th September 2023
After an early morning start from our little campsite, we arrived home at Davistown about 2.30pm. We have had a great 9 week adventure and look forward to seeing all our family and friends. Till next time.

Rosslyn Bay QLD to Gurley NSW

Wednesday 13th September 2023
Today we have left Rosslyn Bay and have had a very big driving day, leaving at 7ish. We drove solidly all day with only the stops for breakfast and lunch. We had intended stopping at Goondiwindi but it was only early so we continued to Gurley in NSW. We went inland and the road was very quiet until 4pm when the trucks seemed to come out of the woodwork. WE are always travelling the roads less travelled. We passed many farms of cotton, wheat, maize and sorghum, as well as cattle farms. Another big drive day is scheduled for tomorrow.