Japan was pretty good although quite warm compared to here so coming back was a bit of a shock. Even though it's autumn, temperatures over there were in the 20's usually mid to upper except for Sendai, so it was a lot warm for long-sleeved clothing. >_<; All in all, I think I took ~12 rolls of photos and we encountered some unexpected goodies along the way. ^___^ I should have photos by next weekend at the latest, but don't know when they'll come back from the developer. ^^; (Yes, I do have a digital camera, but it's a snappy and no where near as good as my SLR. I have to look at getting an SLR digital soon...)
Anyhow, the schedule was much lighter this time with a few days spent at any one city; although we did travel and do day trips as well.
- Day 1: leave Canada (Wed)
- Day 2: arrive in Tokyo (Thurs)
- went to the hotel and had dinner
- Day 3: Ghibli museum (Mitaka / Tokyo - Fri)
- there were two major low pressure systems in the area causing heavy rain so I didn't get photos of the outside. Inside, no photos are allowed which is a real shame, it's very cute inside! ^___^ Tickets to the museum are by advance purchase only, and lots of people do visit. You see a mini-film (we saw Mei and the cat bus) and a few frames from an anime film are included on your actual ticket. Inside, the museum, the bathrooms are accessed through short archways for younger kids although there's also a "normal" access route for adults. I never noticed it until after having gone through the archways. :P There's also a tight spiral staircase from the main floor up to the third floor IIRC. It was very crowded so I didn't take it, but I sort of wish I did. All those times you see those sorts of staircases especially in churches but never get to take them, and here one was that you were *encouraged* to use. ^_^ I really hope I can go back again and go out on the roof as well. That would be nice.
Otherwise, the rest of the day was extremely wet and windy and my umbrella didn't even last one day. *sigh* Heavy rain warnings were for 300mm (30 cm... ~12") for the day although I think less than that actually fell.
- Day 4: met with my Dad's friends (Akihabara / Tokyo - Sat)
This day was mostly for seeing the Yamada's and walking around Akihabara and seeing the shrines in the area. Lots of walking and we managed to see a wedding as well that day.
- Day 5: National Museum (Ueno / Tokyo - Sun)
I noticed some posters about an exhibit from the British National Museum on Egypt at the National Museum a couple of days earlier, so we decided to get tickets and go to the museum on Sunday. *sigh* This display wasn't worth the price and much of the exhibit revolved around a 3-D CGI recreating the face of the mummy being displayed. After the mummy display, we then went to one of the other exhibits (can't remember the actual exhibit name but I believe it was on Buddhist carvings) and also saw part of the permanent collection; all told, we saw a lot of ancient pottery, various carving styles through the ages, as well as various other historic artifacts and pieces. This exhibit was well worth seeing. ^___^
- Day 6: went to Sendai (Mon)
The city of trees certainly had a lot of them and was probably the greenest city I've ever seen in Japan. Did some minor wandering around the station area
- Day 7: Sendai
We went out to a more mountainous area and saw the graves of the earliest generations for the historic figure (Date Masamune) of the area, and at the museum there was an interesting film about opening those graves and what they'd found inside. The graves themselves were filled with lime (IIRC) and the bones were in very good shape and they recreated the faces of the first 3 generations lords from those skulls. There was also a small exhibit about Japan's war dead (from the Sendai area) and even an old newspaper article about the attack on Pearl Harbour.
- Day 8: Matsushima
Considered one of the three top spots in Japan along with Amanohashidate (still haven't gone there...) and Miyajima. Unfortunately, I wasn't overly impressed with the view although it was nice; it was also quite hazy that day. :/
- Day 9: went to Osaka (Thurs)
5 hours of travelling. >_< Spent the night in Osaka near the station area (Umeda) before pushing on the rest of the way to Kokura. Did some minor shopping.
- Day 10: went to Kokura (Fri)
More travel but not very far ~1.5-2 hours). Went to the castle (re-creation) and a local temple & garden.
- Day 11: went to the underground tunnel (Moji / Shimonoseki? - Sat)
Walked the underground tunnel from Moji (Fukuouka) to I *think* Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi. The price for taking your bike through the tunnel is Y30. ^^; We walked from the tunnel entrance to Akama Jingu where there was a kendo match going on for young kids. The shrine had a small burial plot of various members of the Heike (Taira) clan. We'd also gone to the top of one mountain which had a ropeway nearby, but the ropeway seemed to be closed so we left. ^^;
- Day 12: went to Kumamoto
went to the castle (re-creation) but the display inside was quite interesting. One of the towers however is original so we went through it as well. ^_^
- Day 13: went to Kyusendo
This was a strange day. We started off and had to go one station further than to the cave and catch a taxi to the cave. First sign of weirdness; both of us walked right out of the station not realising that we hadn't shown our train passes or handed over our tickets to anyone). Taking a taxi is probably a good thing as we were delivered right to the cave front. The regular course through the cave is a quick 30 min walk and is not overly difficult. Since we had a few hours until our return train, we decided to tackle the adventure course... handed over our bags and shoes and got a helmet and rubber boots in return. ^^; The adventure course is kept more natural than the regular course, and you end up crossing a small stream? river? running through the cave as well. (Don't fall in...)
After the cave, we had to walk to Kyusendo train station... we had to walk into the area that was clearly marked "Stay out; under repair" along a small trail (where we encountered a sign for another cave 50m along some animal trail; but was looking extremly hard to travel), across a suspension bridge, along the road, until we finally ended up at a tiny train station with no one. Wandering the platform, we found the bathroom stalls for the womens side were all shut and without handles, and the mens bathrooms urinals had clearly been removed. ^^;
- Day 14: went to Mt. Aso
We were lucky and the mountain was open when we got there. After coming down from the caldera to have lunch, the caldera was closed due to high levels of poisonous gas (a frequent occurance) but was again later re-opened to the public.
- Day 15: went to Oita
Wandered the historic walk in Oita which includes various stone cliff Buddha images. The walk isn't particularly well marked so we ended up wandering the area a lot trying to find markers. ^^;
- Day 16: went to Usuki (Usuki / Beppu)
One of the major areas for the stone Buddhas. Definitely worth the trip. ^o^ Went on to Beppu and stayed at a ryokan there.
- Day 17: went to Usa
Went to Usa shrine after which we managed to join up with a bus tour (they let you on if they have space) and managed to catch various historic sites in the Usa area including more stone cliff carvings and historic temples.
- Day 18: went to Kyoto
Travelled from Usa back to Kyoto. Wandered around Shijo from the subway down to Kawaramachi
- Day 19: Jidai Matsuri
Caught Jidai Matsuri after which we wandered down to Sanjo and walked all the way back to Kyoto station. ^^;
- Day 20: moved to Osaka
shopping in the Osaka station area for food items, teas, and clothing. Noticed a Mont Blanc fountain pen I'm wanting... ^^;
- Day 21: Uji
Day trip out to Uji and shopping for tea. This time rather than go to the main tourist strip (which is mostly tea shops along with some eateries), we went along some of the main streets. The shop we stopped at would let you try any of their teas so we tried two of their sencha teas. On their own, both were good, but there was no question the two were quite different when being compared against each other. I also asked to try one of their gyokuro teas and it was quite good. They also explained how to make it properly and what people normally do wrong when making it at home. Hopefully, we'll be able to make the teas properly this time. ^^; The woman helping us also explained about the different pricings of tea (we were trying one at Y1500 and Y1000 / 100g), when they were harvested, and how the colour of the tea in Uji is quite different from that of Shizuoka (an extremely bright green in Shizuoka); apparently if you try using the steaming method done in Shizuoka on Uji teas, the flavour is affected badly.
They also had a sencha for Y3500 / 100g which is what they apparently sent in to the national competition which I believe did get a prize. However, we didn't try the tea and so didn't buy it. Also not bought though I was very tempted, was kanrou tea. It's the name of the tea which was a sencha.
Went to Rokujizo briefly so I could buy some nemaki. I still don't know where to buy these things except for regional, lower-end department stores. :/
- Day 22: quick trip to Kyoto station / travel back to Canada
Went to Kyoto station in the morning to pick up some pickles we wanted (and I picked up a comb for me), after which we went back to Osaka to gather our luggage and went out to KanKuu (Kansai airport) for the return trip home.
Anyhow, time to get up and about. It's... only 2 in the afternoon! ^^;