Travel Log – April 2007

Friday 13 April

Having had a nice Chinese the night before and an (almost) early night, we woke (without the need for an alarm – were we excited?) around 4am – yes really!

Showered, dressed and ready to go, Wright’s taxis arrived at 5.30am. We arrived at the airport to be told we were too early, but Damian took the opportunity to flirt with the check in assistant and bagged extra leg room for our outbound trip!

Breakfast followed and a short wait until we boarded our first plane of the day – we were on our way.

12.35pm

So far, so smooth, with typical efficiency Lufthansa got us to Frankfurt bang on time and only a 2 minute walk from our gate for the onward leg. It’s all fab so far. Flight to Frankfurt was on time and we have just landed. The transfer was so much easier than I thought it would be and now were are just waiting to board our big Jumbo to Narita.

The flight seems to be an even mix of Japanese nationals returning home and middle aged German couples going on holiday. We appear to the youngest tourists which is good as it guarantees a yob free holiday. The excitement and expectation is building and we can’t wait to get there now.

14 April 2007

It is now midnight (Tokyo time) or 3pm UK time (confusing). We estimate arrival around 8am. So far we have been fed pretzels and beer and eaten noodles, of course, beef and rice.

We’re hoping to catch some Z’s but its still light outside so may watch a film and see what happens. Flight is OK so far and plane is huge.

10.03am Tokyo

We have arrived!

Flight was great. Lots of food and drink – although not much sleep. Arrived at Narita Airport. It has taken almost one hour to get through passport control but that aside it has been easy enough to get a ticket for the train (£4) which actually left on the second it was supposed to. Apparently is it is now an hour and half to our first hotel, so we should have an hour or so free before check in to explore before a shower and probably a power nap, before more serious exploring is undertaken.

Tokyo Narita passport control – wow disorganized chaos executed in a very polite Japanese style. Flight was no problem (no sleep either) and now we are on the shuttle train to Veno. Now off to drink in the views.

Kinya Hotel, Tokyo. 4.30pm

How fab!

The journey to the hotel was easier than expected and we found our hotel – which seemed small but nice. We dropped our bags off and took a beautiful stroll in the sunshine through the park for an hour or so. We finally checked in at 1pm and found our bags had already been taken to our room. The room is small (for Dami) but contains all our essentials, including a fridge, toothbrush and kimono and slippers. A short (ish) nap was needed and we are both now showered and changed and ready for an evening ahead.

My first impressions of Japan are:

  1. Friendly but formal
  2. Organised
  3. Pretty
  4. More relaxed than expected
  5. Very clean
  6. Even the old people have an ipod and mobile phone – Gadget City

We now have our meeting at 6pm, so hopefully all will be revealed then.

Found the hotel easily and left our bags so we could go for a walk in nearby Veno Park. The park was lovely and has a temple at its centre and is laid out around a large lake that contains huge carp and turtles. After the tranquility of the park we walked through the Veno market area enjoying the alien voices shouting and vying for our attention. Despite our intentions to flight on we succumbed to an hours nap and felt better for it.

10.20pm

Following our nap and shower we met the rest of the group at our first meeting at 6pm. Yuri is half Chinese and half Japanese and the team leader of our group. As well as the two of us there are also:

Becks (female) who is sharing with another girl who has not yet arrived

Kevin & Ian

David

A guy from Cambodia who doesn’t speak much English and whose name I cannot remember (sorry)

After the initial introductions we were taken to a “restaurant”. You order the meal at a vending machine and pay for it in the same way we buy chocolate. Instead of getting food from the machine, you get a ticket and the meal is cooked fresh – strange, but cool. We were also given our own chopsticks.

After food we validated our rail passes and caught a train to the Government Buildings (its free). We took the lift to the 45th floor and the views were amazing. We could see the whole of Tokyo. Bright lights, big city – just like the films.
We travelled back and after a long two days, with no sleep, we are off to bed. We are ready for an early start tomorrow.

After meeting the rest of our group, most of us headed out for food – fast food Tokyo Style. Delicious noodles or rice cooked fresh and served with soup. Much refreshed we headed to catch some sights before bed. The views are incredible and on the way back we were amazed by the amount of hustle and bustle still on the trains and streets. The fatigue is starting to bite and small things are causing annoyance (mainly small doorways!). Time for bed!

Sunday 15 April – 4pm

We got up (well, actually we were woken up) to the sounds of “ichi” “ni” “san” etc at 7am.

There was a load of people outside in the park doing early morning stretches. We sat and watched. We would have joined in, but we are on holiday.

We did however decide to go for a walk around the park before meeting everyone at 8am. The options for the day were given to us and rather than spend the day in Tokyo, we took an early morning train to Kamakura (about an hour away).

Hotel Izumi – Kamakura

We were given good directions by Yuri so has little problem finding the right train station and arriving at our hotel. The hotel was however closed but we managed to leave our bags at the hotel for check in around 3pm.

We then strolled the streets in search of the Kamakura festival. The others were to join us later but we wanted to explore alone first.

The festival was lovely. Very busy and we saw the temple shrine and witnessed people praying by throwing money in, 2 claps and a bow. A Japanese man explained the process to us. We then watched the drummers and Japanese cheerleaders before watching the men on horses shoot bows and arrows at a target.

We then sampled the local snacks, which were lovely, but we actually have no idea what they are. A rice cake thing – hot, dipped in soy sauce and a fruit filling dumpling in a variety of colours. Nice, but weird.  We’ve just checked in and are having a rest before the plans for the evening are sorted.

Whilst most of the world loves a lie in, the Japanese prefer to assemble in groups in parks and exercise together. We got into the spirit by watching in our kimonos. We decided to escape the group and set off on our own to Kamakura to catch the festival.  The train journey was effortless and we arrived unstressed. As we walked to the hotel, this relaxed feeling heightened as tranquil music is piped from speakers.

The festival was fantastic with traditional drumming and archery. We sampled some of the goodies being sold from little food stalls and are becoming fans of Japanese food.

After a good explore we checked into the hotel for a relax.

11pm

After our snooze and a short meeting to discuss tomorrow’s events, which starts with us catching a train at 8am to go on a two hour walk, we decided to hit the sushi bar with Bec and Lily (who had now arrived). Kevin and Ian eventually found us and joined us for our first Japanese sushi bar experience.

The meals are on conveyor belts and prepared fresh. You literally pay for what you eat at the end. It was a great experience and the food was not so bad to be honest (I’m a fussy eater). We then stopped at a Japanese arcade type place to play a bizarre game which no one understood (Pachinko). We finished our night at a local pub, having a quiet beer and some good company. All is great so far, so after a quick read its off to bed before another early start and potentially long day tomorrow.

Not much to add to this really. The sushi bar was cool. This trip is about experiencing Japan and Japanese life and sushi bars are a big part of it. Everyone save for us, was Japanese and it was a small intimate place. The sushi tasted much better than in the UK. It was also nice to meet the guys and get to know them a bit while we enjoyed a few beers. Japan is providing friendly, engaging and varied enough to keep us loving it every minute.

Monday 16 April

Today has been a busy day. We got up for breakfast at a local coffee shop shortly after 7am, ready to catch a train at 8am. We met the gang and jumped on the train for just one stop along to (confusingly) Kitakamakura station to start our hike to the Big Buddah. We didn’t think it would be a real hike – but it was.

The route started at Jochiji shrine and proceeded to a beautiful temple (shrine) at Kuzuharaokakima The route was amazing and took us through the woodlands. The hike is apparently called Daibutsu Hiking Course. 

Yuri informed us that at each shrine you can get an “autograph” where the people will write in Calligraphy the name of the temple etc. The books make fab souvenirs wo we bought one to start our collection. We continued our woodland walk to Zeniaraibenzaiten.

At this shrine we all got carried away with the interesting rituals which are followed and wanted to experience them for ourselves namely:

Washing hands and face for cleansing

Lighting candles

Lighting incense

Washing our money (it’s supposed to duplicate)

Yuri told us that they write a sort of new year wish on a piece of wood and hang it out, The following year they return, bury the old wish and make a new one!

From here we continued our walk to the Big Buddah. It is 13.35m tall and an obvious tourist attraction. It did start to rain at this point, although this did not dampen our spirits. The group split at this point to go their own way and we went with Bec to Hasedra shrine/temple.  This was an amazing place to view the “typical” Japanese gardens. We then decided a trip onwards towards the sea would be excellent. This wasn’t before a quick stop to the area to remember babies who dies at birth or early on. So we lit a candle.

We then caught a train from Hase Station to Enoshima. Here we ate lunch and Cha Ya, refuelled and headed over the bridge at Enoshima Benten Bashi. Here we travelled numerous miles, looking at anything and everything, including a number of shines in particular the:

  • Lucky stone
  • Turtle rock
  • Enghima Iwaya cave

The caves were pitch black and very small so that we a) couldn’t see and b) couldn’t stand up straight. After a LONG trek looking for the naked goddess of entertainment (and not finding her) we returned on the local train, back to our hotel to get showered and warm, ready for our meal tonight. We arrived at the hotel around 5.15pm and had an hour and half until tea.

We met the rest of the gang at 6.45pm and walked round the corner to a fab place where you pay for your meal and then cook it yourself on a BBQ type grill in the middle of the table. The food consisted of beef, pork and chicken with salad and veg. There was plenty to go round but still room to fit in a dessert.

We have had a lovely, but exhausting day and very pleasant (and filling) evening. We are off to catch an early morning train tomorrow, so bedtime calls.

What a day. Today we had a bit of everything – hiking, temples, eating, temple views, temples, trains and some temples. The walk to the Big Budda was lovely, through woodland remarkably similar to home. The shrines along the way provided further diversion and opportunities to relax. 

The afternoon was great fun – we walked all over Enoshima Island, looking at all its shrines (except the one we couldn’t find and can report that all of its thousands of steps are in fine condition.

Alongside the manmade spectacles of the island, large number of fish eating birds of prey soared overhead vying for our attention. An old fisherman by the waterside was throwing them scraps of fish which they caught in mid air. It has been a very busy but hugely enjoyable day.

Tuesday 17 April

We rose today very early to catch a 6am train to travel to Iya valley. This involved several train journeys and we were collected by the owner of the hotel who took us to see the “peeing boy” statue, vine bridges and a couple of site seeing spots along the way to the hotel. The hotel is FAB. We arrived around 4pm and were shown to our rooms and how to use an onsen (bath/spa). We all then took to the onsen – there is an indoor and outdoor one at the hotel. It is cold outside but it was actually really lovely to sit in the outdoor onsen and look at the fabulous views. After the onsen we all met for a meal at the hotel, which was a formal Japanese meal, in our robes. We then learnt how to make origami cranes, frogs and a few other things. After a fun filled night, we slept on our Japanese futon bed, happy and full of food.

Busy busy day. It started with a series of very busy commuter trains, then onto a 150mph shinkansen, then onto a bus sent by our hotel. Once at the traditional Japanese style hotel, we went for a bath at the onsen before donning our traditional garb for dinner. A busy but satisfying and very enjoyable.

Wednesday 18 April

We started our trip today with an onsen before breakfast (a full Japanese breakfast). Then a bus trip to a farmhouse for a large open fire, walk around the local area and noodle lunch. We then decided to walk back to the hotel to see the sights of the local area.

5pm

Well, it rained! Pretty much all day, but we continued our two hour walk through the whole of Japan (well almost), seeing the sights and walking through local villages. It was wet, but fun, and it is always worth it when you can get back, change into warm clothes and get ready for tea.

The farmhouse was beautiful and the work that is being done there is very worthwhile if a little lacking in direction. The walk home to the hotel was a highlight, following the Gorge all the way marvelling at the clear water and impressive drops. The rain was constant however the promise of a hot bathe in the onsen (and a cold beer) kept us going. This is truly a breathtaking part of Japan.

Tea was a typical Japanese meal and we all decided to go for a late night, outdoor onsen in the dark before bed. What a fab end to the night.

Thursday 19 April

After a traditional Japanese breakfast we set off for our train ride to Matsuyama where we will be staying for one night. We left the hotel at 8.15am and the owners of the hotel took us by bus to the station. After around 50 minutes we switched trains and were then travelling in the sunshine to our next destination.

Our next destination is Matsuyaman City. We arrived at a very plush hotel and decided to explore by tram and then a short walk to the Ishiteji Temple which is number 51 of 88 pilgrim temples.

We then took the tram back and after a short walk through the local shops we arrived at the Ropeway and took the chair lift (cool) to Matsuamajo Castle. We stopped to take shots of the stunning views (and have an ice cream) After a wander around, the place closed at 5pm and we met the rest of the group for a public onsen at Dogo Hot Spring. The place was extremely busy, but welcoming. Some of us then decided to go for a beer and Japanese tapas which somehow took us to midnight when we decided we needed to sleep, ready for our 6am start tomorrow.

After another early start we traveled to Matsujama and checked into our hotel. Then it was exploring time. We saw the Temple with its imposing Budda on the hilltop above them on to the castle. This has been restored after being damaged during the war.

After the castle we walked through the shops for a while checking out the pop-culture shops and bright lights. The town is famous for its hot spring onsen, which we sampled. Then clean and warm we returned for beer and food.

In the onsen, I (DZ) got chatting to a Japanese guy who spoke better English (just) than my Japanese. I explored the onsen using signs and a few words – good fun!

Friday 20 April

7.15am

We rose early to catch the ferry to our first stop at Beppu. We hope to arrive in 3 hours for a wander round and a sand bath before our long onward journey.

4pm

The ferry trip was pretty cool. We found (or were located – we’re not sure) a cabin which we were all given a bed on the floor with pillows and a cover. We grabbed a hot chocolate and a croissant type bun.

We then tried to catch up on some beauty sleep before arriving in Beppu. We took a trip to Umi Jigoku (Ocean Pit “Hell”) to see the geothermal pits.

Whilst very beautiful the stench they produced by the pitts from the Sulphur pitts, which smells of really bad eggs was unbearable after a short while, so the visit wasn’t too long before we decided to move on.

We caught a bus to Beppu sand bath, where you are basically buried alive. The sand is hot, the scenery beautiful, the staff friendly and the experience was surprisingly relaxing. This was well needed to build up our energy for the ongoing journey.

We are now sat on the train hearing towards our next stop and I believe we are due to arrive at 5.14pm (yes really, not 5.15pm) for a switch before completing the final leg for arrival at 8pm.

Ferry, trains, boiling hot springs and being buried in hot sand… Japan has its mad moments.

We arrived at the hotel and dropped our bags off before heading out to a restaurant for a late dinner. This is a very strange place as it is Japanese with both European & Chinese influences. Food tonight was Chinese style and after a long day we headed off to bed.

Saturday 21 April

Today was our time. No group just the two of us and we had such a lovely day. The weather was good and we left around 9am to start our tour of Nagasaki.  We took the tram to the Peace Park and grabbed a “takeaway” breakfast from a local bakery.

We then checked out the Urakami Cathedral, which unfortunately did not thrill us. It is modern, western and nothing we hadn’t seen before. We did however check out the local swimming pool where squad training seemed to be taking place. We watched for a while before catching our next tram.

The tram took us to the Dejima Wharf, where we booked a boat trip around the harbour to see the sights from the sea. We sat on top deck, drank a beer and caught some sun. After a nice relaxing trip we strolled down to the China Town and tried the local dumplings filled with meat – so nice we went back for second helping.

Finally we travelled to Mount Inasa for a view of the whole town. We arrived in day light to take some pictures and stayed until dark, to see the town lit up in all its story. The cable car ride ensured we had a great all round view and we headed back to the centre, to catch up with the rest of the group for the requisite beer before bed. Tomorrow, we head out to the mountains for another day trip.

Today was one of the nicest days of the trip mainly because it was all us time from morning to evening we had each other to worry about, we didn’t have to check in with anyone or do anything other than enjoy Nagasaki and each others company.

We pretty much did the whole town using the trams and walking. Parts of the town are very poignant, parts are bustling and busy and other parts are just picturesque.

The two highlights of the day were the boat trip and the cable car ride, so far I think this was my favourite day because we got to do our own thing for a change. Tomorrow we are going hiking… sounds cool.

Sunday 22 April  

Today was a funny day. We had planned a big trip out to Unzen to climb the mountains and see the sights. Unfortunately, when we met at 7am Kevin and Ian decided they weren’t coming with us – and the rain had kicked in, very heavily.

Anyway, we along with Bec and Gustavo caught the train and then the bus to Unzen. As we arrived the rain became worse and we finally had to succumb to buying a brolly. Brolly in hand we walked around the hells and the local town.

Finally when we were already pretty wet, we warmed ourselves at the public onsen at kojigoku, This is a spa pool filled with water from the volcanic springs. The water contains Sulphur and supposedly has healing powers. We felt good after it anyway.
After a mini siesta we walked the shopping mall before eating. We had a nice meal at a local restaurant and headed to the 100 Yen Shop for goodies for our onward trip tomorrow.

At the hotel, plans were underway to change our next destination due to the weather so we will see what tomorrow brings.

Anyway, we are off to bed with a beer and read to catch up on some well deserved sleep before the alarm goes off at 7am.

More firsts for our Japan trip. Today we walked around on a volcano. How cool. Even the streets steamed away and hot water and steam poured from vents everywhere even the rain and cold could not mask the heat from the vents. Nor could it hide the smell. The sulphur onsen was great and really relaxing.  The afternoon was spent strolling and having a rice tea then back for beer and bed  – another lovely day!

Monday 23 April

We travelled today to Hiroshima instead of Ojika to avoid adverse weather conditions.

Upon arrival we explored the local area, namely the Peace Park and A Bomb Dome.

Before this we headed to Miyajima to check out the island. How fab that deers wander without a care in the world.  We saw the floating shrine and then took the nature trail back.This led us up into the mountains before taking us through the village.

We then took the ferry back and headed for the local sights before meeting Yuri for an evening meal and drinks, Mexican style. Our latest night so far as we left the O bar at 12.30pm.

Nice day today, we were a bit nucleared out after Nagasaki so we did the sights of Hiroshima and then spent a very lovely afternoon strolling around Miyajima island, feeding the wild but tame deer and enjoying the sunshine. Back in civilization we found a good bar and drank and chatted the night away.

TUESDAY 24 APRIL

Another early start today, but we are now getting used to this. We had the fab idea of hiring bikes and exploring the local, more rural area this way. What a great plan!

We arrived after a train journey and local train ride in Okayama, taking over 2 hours and checked out the cycle hire place. At that point we realized how big Damian was in Japan – as the bikes were far too small. Anyway, we weren’t going to let this spoil our day, so we cycled on, seeing the local sights.

We only encountered one other problem – the map was in Japanese and surprisingly we don’t speak Japanese, hence…. we got lost!!

We stopped some locals to ask them for directions but when they spoke Japanese and we spoke English, we didn’t get very far.

So we carried on, passing through fields, local villages, and not noticing the quiet of the countryside – what a change.

The bike ride took us around 4 to 5 hours, and is one of the best experiences in Japan so far. The weather was hot, the scenery was great and there was no one else around except the two of us – bliss.

We returned back to the group to go to a local restaurant based in a market style setting. The food was cooked on a hot plate in front of you – and they only serve one dish (different types) which is a local dish made with veg filling and from pancake mix. Nice, but not my cup of tea. Dami loved it of course.

From here we went for a drink at the “Shack” before heading back to the hotel. This wasn’t however, before checking out the local car parks – which are a tourist attraction in themselves. A carousel type “ride” houses all the cars in a tall (rather than wide) car park.  We were amused and impressed.

Another favourite day. Once again, today we went from sublime to ridiculous and back again. Sublime countryside, views, temples, and riding through rural Japan that hasn’t been tourist oriented but is just Japan where people live and work…. To the ridiculous sight of 6ft 4in me on a Japanese shopping bike.

Brimming with confidence we set off following signs that soon seemed to peter out. We noticed that at the end of every road on our route there were the same kanji so we followed them believing them to be cycle track… turns out it meant stop. But in the end with the help of a few locals we go to the end.

We finished the evening chatting and enjoying a beer with the group after a lovely meal of a local speciality of cabbage pancake/omlette.

WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL

Today we travelled to the group’s final destination. We stopped on the way at Himeji Castle which is a beautiful castle and great place to overlook the whole City. We travelled onwards to Kyoto, arriving early afternoon.

With little time to explore, we dropped our bags and headed straight for the local market to check out the hustle and bustle and local food places.

The afternoon was then spent shopping for souvenirs so we have plenty of time to sight-see on Thursday and Friday. On the way back we found a small local restaurant, specializing in “hamburg” and steak, so we had to stop for food.  The food was great. The chef if also the waiter and cashier. What a top man!

In the evening we met for a quick drink in a small bar and finished the evening with beer and  a cheese platter.

Humeji castle was beautiful, where in Europe castles seem to be more function than farm, here a balance is met. The castle is fortified and in days gone by had 3 moats and an army of samurai, but allied to this the main tower is gobs smackingly beautiful but each intricate architectural details has a deadly purpose, fascinating.

Kyoto is our final group destination and we decided to do our shopping in the first afternoon and then spend the rest of our time seeing the sights. The food market was our first destination. Most of the stalls have samples to try and the stall holders are only  too  happy to offer you a sample with no obligation. All shopped out, we headed back to the hotel and stopped at an excellent restaurant. All the staff were great (because it was the same guy) the food was fab, cooled on a hot plate in front of us and the other clientele ranged from business men to young Japanese, all popping in for a meal and getting back to busy lives.

THURSDAY 26 APRIL

Today we get a taste of the things I always imagined to be “Japan”. We started the day visiting an old merchants house. He used to have royal and important visitors stay with him and was paranoid of invasions or attacks so built the house accordingly – with fake ceilings, private hideways, hidden cupboards and much more.

From here we headed to the Theatre. Amazing!. We got to see the trainee Geisha perform live on stage. Apparently such public performances happen only once a year. Perfect timing. How lucky are we?

The performance was perfect. Beautiful girls, beautiful costumes, and beautiful dance. This was a serious “wow” from everyone in the group.

After a lunch stop we browsed the shops and local area in Gion before heading towards the Budo Centre. The martial arts training ground is beautiful. Unfortunately, we were unable  to look around inside – but admired from afar.

We then met up with the rest of the group to be shown a traditional tea ceremony. This itself is a ritual. The preparation and serving of tea is done with such precision. There were 6 of us and it took an hour, with tea (green of course) being prepared for each person individually and whisked to perfection. Each person in turn then joins the drinking and apologies for drinking to those who have not yet started. What another great experience which will remain in our memories forever.

This evening the whole group met for a final dinner. All you can eat buffet style. We love food.

After a lovely evening we said our goodbyes and headed back (midnight arrival) to our hotel, ready for our final day in Japan tomorrow – and our big explore of TOKYO.

What more can I say? The highlight of the day has to be the theatre. The Miko danced and performed perfectly all in time and with choreography that was so perfect that it was as thought they were all part of an intricate and beautiful clock. My clumsy words cannot do their performance justice and the whole group felt lucky to have seen the dance.

In the afternoon we explored Gion and visited the 300 year old Budo Centre before partaking in a tea ceremony once again fab.

After tea it was onwards for dinner which was our last group meal. We all talked about the trip and impressions of Japan and our favourite places. It was nice  to find that neither of us have had a favorite place, all of the places we have seen have been great, the scenery and the hustle and bustle or the serenity what has made the biggest impression on us is the people – always courteous, always polite, always proper in their conduct, but behind every formal bow has been a warm smile. Behind every language barrier has been communication. We have never felt uncomfortable or helpless as we knew that help was only a smile – and some pointing – away.

FRIDAY 27 APRIL

8.20am

We have started heading back North. Goodbyes have been said and we caught the 7am train from Kyoto to Tokyo for our final sights. Armed with a guide to Tokyo we are planning today’s madness. We arrive in Tokyo at 9.45 so will lock our bags and rush around.

(And we saw Mount Fuji while we were on the train – How fab!!!)

10am

Bags locked in locker, and off to explore. Our first stop was Shibuya, famous for the mad crossing outside the train station at Hackiko. This is a 6 (I think) was crossing and so many people cross at one time, It is best viewed from Starbucks, so after a wander around the shopping centre we had to go for a hot chocolate and spend some time people watching.

From here we just had to go to Tokyo Hands  – a kind of department store with quirky, typical Japanese style and novelties.

From here, we took the rail to Ginza. Here we wanted to see the Sony Building to see the latest technology and the preview of Spiderman 3 on the big screen.

Another mad crossing later and we were back on the train for our next quick stop. We had vowed to see as much of Tokyo as possible in one day , and we were well on our way.

We headed for Akihabara – also known as Electric Town. Here you can find pretty much any electrical item and the choice of mobile phones, MP3 players and cameras is huge.  Unfortunately, most of it can only be used in Japan – rubbish!

After a browse round al the shops in awe of the choice and technology, we were hungry and stopped at yet another fab “eatery”. Are there any bad ones?

We then decided to end in style and the place where we started – completing a full circle of Japan and our trip.

From here we caught the train to our final destination in Japan. Narita. The hotel was excellent. The best was huge. The bathroom was massive and a separate shower.

The downside at first was that the restaurant was closed. However, all was not lost. There was a vending machine serving hot food. Great idea.  We had beef noodles, rice and chicken and chips.

We also secured ourselves beer from the machine and spent a happy night eating and getting ready for our journey home.

Our last day of exploring in Japan so we decided to make it a good one. We dumped the bags in Tokyo Station and got down to business. Stop after stop on the circle line, sight after sight, wow after wow. Even after two weeks of Japan it still impresses and amazes. The technology in Akihabara was amazing and we cannot wait for it to get to the UK. We had talked about making our trip a loop and decided to end where we started. So after a great day taking in a snapshot of Tokyo we stopped by at Veno where we had spent our first night

Then it was on to our hotel, easily the most luxurious we had stayed in and very welcome to these two weary travellers.
We finished the circle by having our last meal from a Japanese vending machine just like the first. Then exhausted after two weeks of the best holiday, we collapsed into dreams of Japan.

SATURDAY 28 APRIL

Up and ready to go! Sad day as we have to leave this fab place and end our holiday. However, we had has such a fab time. The memories will stay with us forever.

The time is now:              2.30 pm in Tokyo

                                           5.30am in London

                                           6.30am in Germany

We have had breakfast at the airport and have boarded the plane, are drinking beer and ready for food and a good film.

On the plane and heading home. Mixed emotions, obvious sadness at the end of our trip but also real joy from the experiences of the last two weeks. Japan surpassed all of my expectations. Its innovation is incredible, its efficiency is astounding and its hospitality is exemplary, but it is the people of Japan who have made this trip so special. Their welcome, warmth and genuine pleasure in offering assistance made a huge difference.

We have both enjoyed this trip possibly more than any others. We have learnt a lot, experienced a lot and leave Japan with very fond memories. Japan is a place of contradictions but has fired in me an interest that I have not felt with a travel destination before.