Bel and Phil's Adventures

Our adventures through Europe, America and Asia

Miyajima Island to Osaka -12th April

So we had thought about getting up for sunrise, and then realised that it was going to be cloudy. We got up at 6:45am instead to get those early morning photos. Phil and I went straight down to the Tori Gate and Shrine. It was so beautiful, although unfortunately, cloudy. The morning light was still beautiful and of course, only people who stayed on the island were there.

We went through the shrine again to get some different photos. Just stunning. We walked around and then headed back for breakfast. Dallas opted to keep sleeping rather than come to breakfast. Phil went back up to the room and I went out for more photos as the sun had come out. It truly was so beautiful.

I went back up to the room and relaxed for a while. We then checked out and organised the mini bus to take us back to the ferry pier. We were able to get the 11:30 ferry back to Hiroshima Peace Park. This allowed us to have some time back in Hiroshima before getting the Shinkansen. We had morning tea at this gorgeous cafe, just next to the river. It was perfect. I went back up to the Children’s Peace Monument to get a photo of it in the sunshine. After we had eaten, Dallas and Phil went to check out the point where the atomic bomb detonated. Phil stopped off at 7-11 to get some fresh sandwiches and Coke – No sugar for the train (they don’t have Diet Coke here!).

We caught a cab up to the station and boarded the Shinkansen. Dallas’ last bullet train ride. This is crazy fast. Phil has an app that can tell you how fast you are going. It clocked us at 300 km/hour. Crazy.

We arrived in Osaka and found the cab area. We got a cab down to our hotel. There seems to be a lot of well-known brands here with a little more English on signs. There are lots of tall buildings everywhere we looked. We made it to our hotel and Dallas went off to his hostel to check in. We had a tour booked at 7:30 which was an Air BnB experience with Barun. We met Dallas to have dinner beforehand at 6:30. We walked across the Dotonburi Canal to meet Dallas. WOW! This is crazy! Crazy busy and crazily lit up! It was like nothing else we’ve seen in Japan.

We decided to try a local place with lots of Japanese people inside. We didn’t understand how this place worked. We just ordered food that we liked. It had a price on it, but we didn’t understand that it was supposed to be shared and that price was per person. Whoops! So Dallas had sashimi (and had enough for 3 people), Phil had roast chicken and garlic and I had 2 prawns covered in bread. Dallas then had some udon noodles. We were very surprised by the bill as it was triple the cost that we thought it was going to be. Oh well. The food was lovely.

 

We met Barun our tour guide for our Hotspots and Hidden Gems tour. We can’t recommend this tour enough. It was perfect for our first night in Osaka. Barun took us into the less tourist side of Dotonbori and showed us different landmarks including a Balinese style resort right here in the heart of Osaka. Barun then took us into America Mura which translates to American Village. It was this area that the youth started meeting and made it their own area. There were young people skateboarding and just hanging out. The streetlights are all unique and shaped in the form of people. It really is a more youthful vibe here. There were lots of clothing shops selling American clothes. I will need to come back here and check it out for something for Chris.

After here, we headed onto one of the shopping streets that had been a shopping street for 400 years! Obviously it looks very different now to then. We then came across the running man billboard. We spent some time around here taking photos. Luckily we were the only ones on the tour tonight. We then spent some time walking down the main Dotonbori street. It was packed. Barun introduced us to this clown figure. There was a mannequin of it playing a drum. He is the unofficial mascot of Osaka. He originally was a mascot for a local restaurant and was made to resemble the restaurant owner. Now he is the mascot for Osaka.

We then went down this little alleyway, which looked like it went to a restaurant, but no it went to a Buddhist temple. This was the Houzenji Temple. It was a small hidden oasis of peace and calm in amongst this crazily busy city.  The deity that resides here was covered in moss as so many people splash it. There was some incense burning and a Japanese family there praying. It really was a special place.

After the peace and calmness of here, we headed back into the craziness. We walked past a guy selling Turkish ice cream – Andy. He was hilarious. He was doing magic tricks for a little boy who had bought an ice-cream cone. It was super funny. He is from Istanbul and has been in Japan for 18 years.

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Dragon in Dotonbori, Osaka, Japan

After here, we headed past a restaurant where you can go to eat and go fishing. The tables are set up in boats and you can fish, as there are fish swimming around the boats. Eat, drink and fishing all in the one place. Perfection for some. Our last stop was at a place where they sell the local speciality, Takoyaki (octopus in balls which also include other ingredients). The guy here is called Hiro and he is amazing.

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Hiro, the amazing cook of the the best Takoyaki in Osaka, according to Barun.

We farewelled Barun here and headed back to our hotel. We were exhausted, but so pleased that we had met Barun and gone on his tour. If you are interested you can find out more about his tour here.

What a fabulous day!

 

 

Miyajima Island – 11th April 2019

We checked out of our lovely hotel and headed to the Peace Park to catch the fast ferry service over to Miyajima Island.

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This service went on the Hiroshima World Heritage Sea Route and was fabulous. We walked to the ferry pier and bought our tickets. As we were coming back the next day we were able to get a round ticket as you have two days to use them. This gave us a small saving. The return ticket was 3600 JPY. We got on the ferry and relaxed for the 45 minute journey to Miyajima Island.

Upon our arrival at the island, I approached one of the ladies on the pier about how to get to our hotel. We stayed at the Miyajima Grand Hotel Arimoto as our splurge accommodation on the trip. She contacted the hotel and they sent a minibus from the hotel to collect us. We were very impressed.

The minibus took us to the hotel. Wow! It was so beautiful. We were too early to check in, however we were able to leave our luggage with the front desk and go out to explore. The front desk staff were able to direct us how to get to the shrine and the Tori Gate. It was a little cloudy unfortunately, but at least it wasn’t raining. There were lots of tourists there, but most people were patient and considerate. It was so surreal seeing it for the first time. It was high tide and the gate was surrounded by water.

We went into the shrine and took some more photos. After going through the shrine we walked around and explored on the other side of the shrine.

We came across some beautiful places. They truly were stunning. The photos don’t do it justice.

After exploring some of the back streets we were getting hungry so headed to the shopping and restaurant area. This was really busy. We were trying to find somewhere nice to sit down and have a meal. We finally agreed on a place and it was amazing!

We did some shopping and then headed back to our room to relax and enjoy the facilities. Our room is so gorgeous. We are so glad that we decided to stay here for the night. I only wish we were here for two nights. Maybe next time.

We relaxed for a while in the hotel and then went out to take some more photos around dusk. Unfortunately it was still cloudy, so I couldn’t get my sunset photos.

We had dinner at the hotel (included in the price). It was traditional Japanese food. Dallas enjoyed it more than I did. Phil, Dallas and I went out to see the Tori Gate after dinner where there were only people around who were staying on the island. The last ferry back to the mainland leaves about 8:00 pm. It was so beautiful.

We headed back to our room to relax and enjoy the sea air. This has been a perfect stop on our trip to rejuvenate.

Hiroshima – 10th April 2019

Sadly, we departed Kyoto this morning to continue our journey south. We are off to Hiroshima today. We needed to change shinkansens at Shin-Kobe with only a 6 minute window between shinkansens, which we were a little worried about. However, no problem at all as the next Shinkansen came on the platform that we were already on. It was all smooth and easy. We arrived in Hiroshima and caught a cab to our hotel, which was perfectly located near the Peace Park.

This afternoon we headed out to explore the Peace Park. The weather was grey and cold, and the mood around here was sombre. The trees and plants were symbolic of the new hope, but the monuments and the A-bomb dome were testament to human’s destruction of each other. Just devastating- as is Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.

We visited the Children’s Memorial in the Peace Park and left the origami cranes that my class from Sydney, Australia had made to be placed there. This was so beautiful. Anyone can leave paper cranes as they have areas behind the Children’s Memorial to place these wishes for peace inside. If you are bringing a lot of them, they prefer you to string them together so they can hang, which I didn’t know about. I left ours in the bottom where others were that weren’t strung together. Some people had hung them and put a label on where they were from. Wishes for peace from around the world! It was quite special.

I had read about a fast ferry boat to Miyajima Island that left from the Peace Park. We found out more information about the Aquanet service and discovered that this was correct. We decided to use this service to go to Miyajima Island the next day.

We walked down to the A-bomb Dome (atomic bomb dome). The bomb was detonated 600m higher than this building and instantly obliterated everyone in this area. The Japanese people left this building as it was. It symbolises the pledge to convey the horror of the atomic bombing and the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons and eternal world peace.

 

We wandered along the Honkawa River alongside the cherry blossoms which, whilst not at their peak, were still beautiful. We headed to the Castle Tower but decided not to go in as it was getting late. We caught a cab to Dallas’ hotel, so that he could check in and then walked back to our hotel from there. It was quite close.

We had an early dinner in the hotel at a buffet that had a combination of Western style dishes and Japanese dishes to choose from. Phil and Dallas then went for a walk in the evening, whilst I relaxed and caught up some of the blog.

I am glad we came to this city. Although the mood that we felt was one of sadness, it could also have been the weather contributing to this feeling.

We are off to Miyajima Island tomorrow.

Kyoto Day 3 – 9th April 2019

Today we had three objectives – find a Japanese doll in a traditional kimono for me, a sword for Ryan and go to the tour that we had booked through Intrepid Travel Urban Adventures. We asked at reception where to go, and they suggested Bic Camera and another shop in Gion. We went to Bic Camera first and they didn’t have anything at all, even after we looked in every possible department. We caught a cab to Gion and went to the shop that was suggested by the hotel. Whilst we saw some geishas when we were driving through Gion, the shop really didn’t have anything. There was a shop that had been suggested in the book, but it was a fair distance away. We decided to give it a shot anyway. We jumped in another cab and went to the shop. We couldn’t believe how many tourists there were here. It was packed! We then realised that the shop was in a tourist area in a pedestrian street leading down from the Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

It really was a very pretty area and I would have liked more time here, but unfortunately we were tight on time. There were a few shops that had replica samurai swords and Japanese dolls. It then became a difficult decision to find the ‘right’ one. There was a massive price difference – they started at around 2000 JPY to about 5000 JPY and then started at 20 000 JPY. The swords were also mind boggling with all of their different designs. We found one that we liked for Ryan and Phil decided that he wanted one too. We made our purchases and walked down to the bottom of the hill to hail a cab to get us back to our hotel. Phil raced across to the station’s 7/11 to get us some sandwiches before we met our tour group at 2pm near the station. We ate them, met Dallas and then headed over to the group.

It was so cold standing in the shadows waiting for everyone to arrive. Luckily we had warm jackets on. We headed off to get the train to our first stop. This was a JR train, so we used our JR Passes. Our first stop was a Zen Buddhist Temple called Tofukuji. It was so peaceful. Sean showed us around the different areas of the temple and gardens. He explained the meaning behind the different sections of the garden and how the garden designer was bringing in different elements to create meaning. On our way to this temple we saw some Ojizosan statues on the way there. This is the deity who will help children have a safe passage after they have passed away. It can also be to ask the deity to look after the children here on earth as well.

From Tofukuji Temple, we walked through some local neighbourhoods to arrive at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

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Neighbourhood near the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

It was packed. Sean, our amazing tour guide, explained to us the difference between the two temples. He also taught us how to pray at this shrine. It’s very different and loud as you need to ring the bell. It was so noisy, nothing like the peaceful prayer time that we had witnessed first thing in the morning, We joined the crowds thronging up the mountain side to the Tori Gates. Dallas couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. I think that he kind of regrets not coming with us early in the morning, especially when he found out you could go all the way to the top. He can do that on his next trip to Kyoto. Dallas has also fallen under this city’s spell. Sean decided to take us the wrong way, so we went up the down path and back through the gates, as we had a better chance of getting some great photos without thousands of people in them, which everyone was so grateful for. After we had finished at the shrine he gave us about 15 minutes in case anyone wanted to get something to eat or use the restrooms. Dallas and Phil were starving so we headed to this area where there were street stalls selling all different kinds of food. Dallas and Phil got some meat sticks and Dallas also bought some fried chicken. We headed for a different train station than the one that we had caught back to Kyoto, that would take us to Gion.

Sean had bought some traditional Japanese sweets for us to try – Yatsuhashi. It was like uncooked pastry with some jam in the middle. I love uncooked pastry, so this was beautiful to me. Dallas liked it as much as I did and Phil thought it was ok. Sean had bought a pack with some different flavours, which he willingly shared around with the group.

When we got out of the train we were walking down the main street leading into Gion (which we had gone down before). Sean pointed out to us the shop where you can buy the sweets from. I made a mental note as I definitely want to get some. We walked through Gion, along some canals with stunning cherry blossoms. It really was so stunning. Sean pointed out some recommendations for restaurants for people who were staying longer.

We crossed into the another geisha district in Gion as Sean started explaining more information about the girls who are trained in traditional dance and musical instruments. He explained the difference between geishas and maikos. As we were walking around we saw some go hurrying past. They hurry as they are trying to get to their next appointment as they don’t want to be late. This part of the tour ended here and we had a break before the next half of the tour began. We walked around Gion and managed to see some more geisha and maiko before going to buy some sweets.

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Different flavours of snack that we tried called Yatsuhashi. Clockwise from the top are chocolate, chocolate banana, mint choc chip, strawberry and lemon.

We met for the next section of the tour. This time we were staying around Gion. Our first stop was Gion Kobu, one of the five Geisha districts in Kyoto. Our next stop was the shrine of Emperor Sutoku (Yasui Konpiragu), which is where you go to cut bonds.

After here we headed to the Higashi Yama district. We saw the Yasaka Pagoda from two vantage points. It was so beautiful. We had a stop near the Yasaka Pagoda to have a drink and some ice cream. Sean filled us in on more information about Kyoto and this area. We headed away from the pagoda and Sean told us to turn around. This scene was breathtaking! It was so beautiful and even more amazingly, there was hardly anyone around.

The stairs continued around to the Kiomizu Temple.

We headed down these beautiful old streets that were so stunning and peaceful. The lane was called Ninenzaka. It was here that I realised that Phil did NOT have my shopping, that he had volunteered to carry – my sweets, glass case and coin purse that I had bought. He must have put it down when we stopped to buy the drinks and the ice cream. Dallas and Phil had decided to have a quick bite to eat as they were so hungry at the Food Mart. Clearly, Phil had put it down and forgotten about it, Luckily, Sean came to the rescue and volunteered to run back down to the shop to see if it was still there. We waited in the beautiful street. The other family’s grandmother ended up buying an umbrella while we were waiting.

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Stunning streets between the Yasaka Pagoda called Ninenzaka (I think) and the Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto

Sean returned victorious. Luckily it is here in Japan that he lost it. Everyone is so honest here and things get handed in. The shopkeepers had it. Just an excellent example of how amazing our tour guide was. We came to the Kodaji Temple built for Hideyoshi by his wife. The cherry blossoms at this temple were divine.

We had moved into the Higashiyama District where we went to the Yasaka Shrine. After another wander through here (we had been here each night we were in Kyoto), we headed to a place called Osho where we ate gyoza with the group. They were amazing.

We then headed back to the canal area and went to a bar called Golden, which is located on Kiyamachi. Sean encouraged us to try different Japanese drinks. Bel had some plum wine, whilst Dallas and Phil tried three calpis cocktails (I’m not sure of the spelling) in different flavours – lime, lemon and another flavour. They both slept well that night.

We farewelled Sean at the bar. Phil and I got a cab back to our hotel and Dallas walked back to his hostel. We have had a great time here in Kyoto. It is such a beautiful city with lots of history and stunning views.

Kyoto Day 2 – 8th April 2019

We were up and out early this morning. Phil and I wanted to go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine before it was super crowded. We had initially (or rather I had initially) thought about getting up at 6 am to go, but that wasn’t going to happen. We got up at 6:45am, got changed and left. We went across the road to the station and jumped into a cab. There was a section for foreign tourists, where the cab drivers spoke basic English. The driver took us to the shrine. It was so beautiful seeing Kyoto in the early morning and it was sunny to boot.

We arrived there about 7:20 am and there was a steady stream of people already there and arriving. Seeing the Tori gate across the road from the station was amazing. We walked through and couldn’t believe we were actually there. We took some quick photos around the shrine area and then headed up into the hills behind the shrine, where the hundreds of tori gates are across the mountain. They look so beautiful and, at that time of the day, it was so peaceful with the morning light filtering through. Bliss! We soaked it all in, especially the peace and quiet. It truly was quite spiritual.

We headed up the mountain seeking some great photos, which was why we had gotten up so early. We have booked a tour tomorrow that visits this site, so we will get to see it at a different time of day as well. We experimented with some different photos from different points along the way. We had lots of fun.

After we had finished on the mountain, we headed back to the Shrine, which was much busier now. We took some photos of the stunning cherry blossoms and other things which caught our attention.

We headed back to the hotel for breakfast. We caught the train back to Kyoto station now that we weren’t pressed for time. I had initially thought about getting to Kinkakuju Temple at 9:00am, however due to our later start at the gates, we knew that we weren’t going to be able to do that. We had breakfast and got organised. Dallas was awake and ready to go to Kinkakuju Temple (the golden Pavilion). Phil and I went across the road to another foreign friendly cab driver, who picked up Dallas on the way. He was telling us about his memories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and Murray Rose’s incredible swims, relying on Google translate most of the time. He was a lovely man. He asked us to say hello to Hugh Jackman and Mel Gibson when we saw them next.

We went into the Temple grounds and were amazed at how beautiful they were. We got our ticket and rounded the corner. Our first view of this beautiful golden temple was amazing. Seeing it in real life, after seeing so many photos of it was just breathtaking. All of us were just drinking in the view and the serenity. It was crowded, but people were being considerate. Unfortunately, the breeze had starting picking up, so we weren’t able to get the photos with the reflection that I had wanted, which means we will have to come back.

We stopped at one of the shrines, lit a candle for family harmony and placed some incense in front of the shrine.

We continued through the gardens and were amazed at how beautiful the whole garden was. Our friendly cab driver had recommended we stop and see the Ninnaji Temple due to the beautiful cherry blossoms. We took his recommendation and stopped in on our through to the Bamboo Grove at Arashiyama. We hailed another cab and went to Ninnaji Temple. Even though the cherry blossoms peak was well over, they were still so pretty. Due to time restraints we only got the ticket for the gardens and not the temple as well. We were glad we stopped here (as it was on the way through to the next stop).

We found another cab to take us to Arashiyama. We couldn’t believe how busy this area was, and how beautiful too. The driver dropped us off as close to the bamboo grove as he could and we found our way into there. It was so tall. Phil loves the bamboo we have growing at home around the pool. Even he was shocked at how tall it was.  We decided to explore a little further and discovered a beautiful little town.

 

We found the train station and caught a local train back into Kyoto. Phil and I had our dinner booked with a geisha and maiko tonight, so we needed to get ready for that. We had booked this experience as we wanted to get some photographs of either a geisha or maiko (an apprentice geisha) and this experience was a splurge for us. The food was presented so beautifully and was traditional Japanese.

One of the highlights was being able to watch the geisha and maiko present their dances. The girls become highly skilled in traditional dances, playing musical instruments and being able to be the ‘life of the party’. The geisha prompted the maiko in different ways to teach her the correct way to do things.

The other highlight was when the girls went around the room, with an English interpreter, and we could ask them any questions that we wanted to. The maiko came to our table. We learnt that she was only 16. She had already stopped her formal school and was studying the arts required for her to become a geisha. She had visited Kyoto and had decided that she would like to be a geisha. Her parents are far away so she doesn’t get to see them that often. She has the freedom to stop being a geisha, if she so chooses, whenever she would like. She is unable to marry whilst being a geisha. She is happy with her life and really enjoys her work. She was quite animated when talking to us and was lovely to listen to.

I played a game with the geisha, and unfortunately lost, so had to have a small amount of beer.

We are both very pleased that we had this experience. If you are interested the link for place we went to is here. After dinner, we went for another walk through Gion and experimented with more photos,

Another massive, jam-packed day but I’m so glad we were able to see so many of the places that I had wanted to see, and thanks to using the taxis we didn’t feel rushed at all. We could go at our own pace. We are absolutely loving this city,

Kyoto Day 1- 7th April 2019

We managed to navigate our way through the amazing train system (thanks mainly to Bronwyn and Chris). We arrived in Tokyo with enough time to book our JR tickets for the rest of the trip, which was one big job out of the way. If you are planning on coming to Japan, plan your trip out and know what days you want to travel before arriving at the JR Office.

We farewelled my sister and her husband, for now and all three of us headed off to Kyoto. Dallas is travelling with us on a few sections of the trip so that he can see more of this beautiful country too.

We found our platform for our Shinkansen (bullet train) and boarded without any problem. We are each travelling with a large suitcase each and it easily fits on the overhead luggage racks. We opted to travel with a green pass and have all of our seats reserved. The trains are so clean, spacious and luxurious.

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As we gathered speed leaving Tokyo, I found it hard to watch out of the window as we were going so fast. We did manage to see Mt Fuji as we raced past it.

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Dallas realised, once we were on the Shinkansen that he had left his backpack on the local train in Tokyo. He emailed the lost and found office and we also contacted my sister. Bronwyn and Chris went back to Tokyo, then were sent to the end of the line, where they located the bag. Thank goodness. One thing that we have noticed about Japan is that everyone is so respectful.

We arrived into Kyoto and our travel guru had found us a hotel across the road from the station, which proved to be very handy in terms of getting around Kyoto. We arrived at 1:45pm and checked into our hotel. Dallas opted to leave his big bag in our room and just take a small bag to the hostel with him.

We decided to walk down to his hostel, after a visit to Bic Camera as Dallas needed to replace his charger, which was in his forgotten backpack. We headed down one of the main roads away from the station. The cherry blossoms were stunning. As we were walking we saw this amazing Temple – the Higashi-Honganji Temple. We went in to explore. It was stunning. The workmanship in the structure and the decorations used is just amazing. When you take into account the age of it, that makes it mind-blowing.

We continued walking into Kyoto as Dallas’ hostel is near the Nishiki Food Market. We found it, he checked in and we headed through the markets. Unfortunately, by this time, most stall holders were closing. We did manage to find somewhere open that served coffee, so Phil and Dallas sat down and had a coffee in the markets. We found a beautiful canal with gorgeous cherry blossoms, so naturally we had to stop, take in the scenery, and take some photos.

We crossed the Kamogawa River and explored some areas of Gion. We wandered around looking at different sites and then stumbled across Yasaka-Jinja Shrine. I’ve seen it described as an explosion of light and sound and it was certainly that. It was so busy, even at this time of evening. It was around 8:00pm. Dallas was tempted by the food stalls, however we had decided to find somewhere to eat for dinner instead.

We left Yasaka Shrine behind and headed back into the Main Street of Gion – Shijo-Dori Street. Bronwyn had recommended that I try an omelette with different ingredients, so we saw Issen Yoshuko, with a long line, and decided to try that. (Our tour guide recommended the restauarant on our tour as well, so we had made a good choice.)

They only have one item on the menu, which was their omelette / pancake, so the choice for dinner was easy – and tasty.

We walked back to Dallas’ hostel and then hailed a cab back to our hotel. We had a great day exploring Kyoto on foot. This city is so beautiful and amazing. There are a lot of people at the moment, due largely to the sakura (cherry blossoms), it is still so beautiful.

Japan 2019 – Tokyo

This trip has been planned for about 12 months, ever since one of Phil’s friends was over in Japan about this time last year. We had planned to come to Japan in 2019 since my sister moved over here late in 2017. We booked our flights last September 2018 with ANA. We were very happy with the service and the price for Premium Economy.

 

We arrived early to Sydney airport (due to needing to be there during peak hour) and had a customary drink in Rydges. We headed over to check in and got express through customs – got to love that. We relaxed in the lounge (which we were able to access due to flying premium economy). ANA were able to fix our seats on the flight so that we were sitting next to each other. The flight seemed pretty quick (it was an overnight fight) and we landed in Tokyo, Japan. We got to customs and we thought that the line for visitors was long. We were wrong. Whilst we were waiting to get through immigration, the line tripled, so we realised that it wasn’t long at all when we arrived. The Japanese people are quite efficient though and the line moved pretty quickly, although I am pleased that we were in the line where we were and not joining the end of it. The whole process was MUCH better than Russian immigration when we were on the cruise ship.

 

We were watching the luggage carousel waiting to pick up our luggage.. waiting… waiting… waiting. I saw another man, who told some other people waiting, that he had found his suitcases already off the carousel. Phil went looking and there they were. Someone had pulled them off to make room. So we went through customs and were through before 6am. We landed at 5:05 am, so we were pretty pleased. Chris came and met us and we navigated our way onto the local Tokyo trains.

We were very thankful that Chris, my brother in law, had made the effort to come and meet us to help us navigate the local trains. We had decided to go to their place first, have some breakfast and do some exploring before going to our hotel. We booked into a hotel for the first night (luckily as Dallas was staying with them). We went to a local restaurant to them for breakfast. Their neighbourhood is so beautiful. We saw our first cherry blossom tree in their local park. It was so beautiful. I had to stop and take in the moment, seeing cherry blossom trees in Japan in bloom. So beautiful.

After breakfast, we headed to Ueno. Today was all about the cherry blossoms. We will be back into Tokyo at the end of our trip for 4 days, but the cherry blossoms won’t be out then. We organised our JR Pass at Ueno station, however we could only book the first 2 sections (as the line was so long). We got the Shinkansen booked to Kyoto for tomorrow and then the leg to Hiroshima booked as well.

We then headed into Ueno Park. It was so picturesque. The cherry blossoms were just so beautiful and delicate. There were so many people out enjoying the beautiful sunny day, sitting with friends and family under the cherry blossoms, having ‘hanami’, a special picnic under the cherry blossoms. It was so beautiful. Sure, there were a lot of people around, however it is Tokyo and I expected that it would be busy. We went up to the shrine. The girls got a fortune paper and we said a little prayer.

We then headed over to a lake area with cherry blossoms and wandered around there. Our nieces got some potatoes on a stick and Dallas had a frozen banana coated in chocolate. The scenery was just so stunning. I knew it would be beautiful but I had no idea just how beautiful. The streets are so clean as well. We decided to get some lunch from 7-11 and sit by the lake. It was perfect! We had some sandwiches and tried some different Japanese sweets and drinks – well beer – Phil had beer. After sitting here for a while, soaking up the sunshine and ambience, we headed into a market area.

It was a completely different sensory overload. We had a quick look around, but both Phil, Chris and I were starting to flag. We caught the train back to Bronwyn’s and relaxed for a while. We then headed to Shinjuku, where we were staying. We checked in, put our luggage in our room and then headed out onto the streets of Shinjuku. Our nieces were eager to show us how good they are at a drum game so they demonstrated that for us. We found a shop that Chris recommended – a massive shop full of electronics. We were looking at getting some pocket wi-fi, however it was pretty expensive, so we ended up getting a data sim.

Next stop was dinner. We wanted to try a traditional Japanese restaurant, so we went to one that Bronwyn and her family had been to before. It was so amazing. We tried lots of different foods. We were exhausted, and seeing as how it was 9pm in Japan (but 11pm in Sydney) it wasn’t surprising. We headed back to our hotel. Off to Kyoto tomorrow morning.

Vietnam 2018

We went on a whirlwind trip to Vietnam with some friends in October 2018. We had ten days exploring Hoi An, Hanoi and a trip to Ninh Binh as well. Unfortunately we had some horrific news upon our return home and haven’t had the will or the opportunity to upload our photos from that adventure. We will fix that up upon our return from the current trip.

Waikiki and Luau, Hawaii

Sunday 12th August 2018

Our last full day for our grand adventure. It has just flown by. We had a lazy start to the day and headed out for breakfast. We ended up going to Shore Fire which had great choices – too many in fact. Phil settled on the scrambled eggs with mushrooms, capsicum, onion and other stuff too. I had pineapple pancakes. We ended up sharing half and half. We went for a walk along the beach and took some photos. It really is a most glorious place.

We headed back to the room to relax and update the blog. I sat on the balcony, with our partial ocean view. It was just so relaxing.

We had booked to go to the Paradise Cove Luau for our final night of our Grand Adventure. This was the perfect way to end our holiday. We were collected at a local hotel and taken to the venue. On our bus (bus 2) we met a couple from Melbourne – Katie and Tony who had a lot of things in common with us. We had a great time chatting to them.

We got a complimentary Mai Tai when we arrived and also a flower lei. We then went and had our seats assigned to us. We sat together and then explored the complex. It really is a beautiful venue. I took some photos of things that caught my eye.

Whilst we were chatting, the conch shell sounded as they were about to do the shower of flowers. This was just so gorgeous.

After this, we headed over to the amphitheatre where they were blessing the food and performing some dances.

The sun was setting as we took our seats for dinner.

The food was lovely and the company was amazing. The show started after dinner was finished. The show highlighted the cultures of Hawaii, Samoa and Tonga with traditional dances performed from all of these islands. It really was a beautiful show.

We had a great time here and it was a perfect end to our amazing holiday.

We got back to our room and packed our bags. We have a 6:15 am pick up for our 10:30 am flight home tomorrow.

It’s so hard to believe that 10 weeks could have flown by so fast – yet it has. We have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of our holiday and have loved exploring all of these new places. We have met some amazing people on our journey and have enjoyed spending pieces of our holiday with some of the most special people in the world to us.

We are finishing this blog at Honolulu airport as we are about to board the Qantas flight home. We have had a fabulous time. Our next trip will be in October when we are off to Vietnam. I love school holidays!

Pearl Harbour, Hawaii

Saturday 11th August 2018

We had a very early start today. The bus was picking us up at 6:00am!! Talk about crazy! Anyway we were up and out by 5:45am so we could go to McDonalds to get coffee and breakfast. Steve (our driver) was explaining what would happen when we got there. We only had 8 people on the bus so that was a nice size. One family was from Southern California and the other couple were honeymooners from Toronto. We headed to Pearl Harbour and were in the security checkpoint line at 645 am. It opens at 7:00 am. Steve was surprised at how short the line was. Phil suspected it was because the memorial is closed at the moment. (We probably wouldn’t have come if we hadn’t already booked and paid for the tour).

We got into the complex and found out that our time to see the movie (the information provided before the tour) was at 8:30 am. We went out and explored the museum and the other information on site. We were also there for the raising of the flag at 8:00am when they played the Star Spangled Banner – the American national anthem.

The information provided and the film certainly set the scene for that fateful day on Sunday December 7th 1941 at 7:48am. We travelled out by boat to the area where the Arizona lay beneath the surface, but couldn’t get close to the sunken ship. We could see some of the wreckage above the surface. It is devastating to imagine the horrific scene here in this beautifully peaceful place.

After this, we went back on the bus to go across to Ford Island to see the retired battleship Missouri. We did a free guided tour which was fascinating. It was starting to heat up and ships aren’t really my thing so Phil went off exploring. He was working at Garden Island in 1986 when the Missouri visited for the 75th Anniversary of the Royal Australian Navy. He was very happy to go and explore.

After here, we headed back through Honolulu’s financial and commercial district to get back to the hotel. We headed down to the pool bar for lunch. It was lovely, although a little pricey.

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We headed down to the International Market Place for some shopping. Phil was looking for a Hawaiian shirt and I wanted some hair decorations. We got them and the got the boys some shirts as well. (Not Hawaiian shirts though – we don’t think they would like them or wear them). We had another smoothie of pineapple and watermelon. These drinks are so refreshing and filling.

We headed back to our hotel and Phil fell asleep really early again. I caught up on the blog and relaxed as well.

We are off to a Luau tomorrow afternoon – our final night of our Grand Adventure. Tomorrow is the last day of our holiday as we are getting picked up for our flight home at 6:15 am on Monday morning.

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