It feels like we’ve seen three different sides of Japan in a week.
We started in a rainy Kyoto, so used that first morning to catch up on the laundry. There are less household chores when travelling, but there are still some.
Kyoto is a mix in itself. There’s the grey (not helped by the rain) aspect that many cities have, and then there is the older part of Kyoto.
Unsurprisingly, the older part is nicer, although both parts seem to have an endless supply of shrines and temples. We didn’t go to that many of them, but still we feel “templed out”. No doubt it speaks to my lack of culture, but one temple looks much the same as another to me.
We still gave them a good go, visiting the temples of Higashi Hongan-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Chion-in, Shoren-in and Tenryu-ji. I’m sure there were a few others as well. In addition, we visited Nijo-jo Castle, Nishiki Market and Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Others will probably do more, but that was enough for us.
Maybe not an accurate description, but the second side of Japan for the week was Hiroshima. It’s place in history, due to the A-bomb dropped on the city on 6 August 1945, made it top of my list of places to visit in Japan.
In the past few years I’ve been to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Both were very moving. Visiting Hiroshima was no different. We spent time with our thoughts in the Peace Park and looking at the various monuments and memorials.
We then visited the A-bomb museum. The main hall is under renovation, but there was still more than enough to see. In fact, I found the personal stories told to be emotionally draining and we left after seeing just a portion of the exhibits. That sounds rather pathetic given what the citizens of Hiroshima endured.
I do think it’s worth visiting these places to remind us that we must not let our world return to such times. It is something I worry about more now than at any other time of my life.
We were only in Hiroshima for two days, but I liked the place. Perhaps it had a slightly more modern feel to it which, having lived recently in Dubai, is what we are used to.
For our final afternoon in the Hiroshima area, we jumped on a train and a ferry to visit Miyajima Island. There are temples and shrines of course, but we didn’t stop to visit them. Instead we enjoyed walking amongst miniature deer that look cute in photos. You don’t need to visit for long, but it’s a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
The week's third side of Japan was a complete change of scene, the 3,000 metre high mountains of the Japanese Alps. Our travel planning may not have been great, and we had a whole day of train and bus rides to get to Norikura Kogen, a village around an hour from Matsumoto.
The long journey was worth it. We enjoyed escaping the cities, we enjoyed the hospitality of the bed and breakfast proprietors, and we enjoyed simply walking through the woods, along the rivers and by the waterfalls at the foot of the mountains. And we’re glad we didn’t find out there are bears until after we’d finished our walks!
Daily diary and costs
I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.
Week 9 - what we've done:
Monday – Kyoto, Japan. Visited Nijo-jo Castle and Higashi Hongan-ji Temple in the afternoon.
Tuesday – Kyoto, Japan. Older Kyoto: Gojo-zaka district; Kiyomizu-dera Temple; Chion-in Temple; Shoren-in Temple. Back to modern Kyoto for Nishiki Market.
Wednesday – Kyoto, Japan. Tenryu-ji Temple and gardens, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Lazy afternoon/12km run by the river.
Thursday – Travelled from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Wander round the shopping area late afternoon.
Friday – Hiroshima Peace Park and A-Bomb museum in the morning. Miyajima Island in the afternoon
Saturday – Travelled from Hiroshima to Norikura Hoikuen-mae in the Japanese Alps. This took all day.
Sunday – Norikura Kogen, Japanese Alps. Hiking.
Week 9 - we spent a total of £891 / $1,258 for 2 people on:
Accommodation £373 / $527
Meals/Coffee/Snacks £422 / $596
Transport £56 / $79
Attractions/Fees £13 / $18
Laundry £4 / $6
Toiletries £11 / $16
Other £12 / $16