Japan#4: Himeji & Kobe

  I’m back and still a tiny little bit behind on this Japan adventure. You have to know that we really do a lot during the day and are completely exhausted at night. I actually do all my writing & picture checking on the train. Then when we get to the hotel/ryokan I upload all, which takes much more longer than you might think. And now that you know it, please don’t mind my grammar, misspelling or any lost train of thoughts. Thank you! So, back to our trip: after we spend a beautiful day in Miyajima we took the next train to Himeji. The city in itself is unimpressive, but the Himejijō is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. Sadly it’s right now in restoration! They built kind of a hall around it and you can take the elevator to the top floor to watch what they are doing to it. It’s actually a very good idea, you get to see the tiling on the roof and the restoration of the walls, BUT it just takes too long! There were sooo many people that it took us almost 2 hours just to get to the elevators. Once you are up there you can’t stop to wonder if it really was worth it. We were outside again in 15 to 20 minutes AND you even have to pay extra for it! The rest of the premises make up for that lost life time :-) The walls are all white and the tiles are black/gray and on top of it the cherry trees were in full bloom! After a short meal at the park we went to the Kōkoen, which are beautiful gardens just to the west of Himejijō. Look at those huge Koi in the pond on the 3rd picture! The gardens were a beautiful way of finishing our visit in Himeji :-) I haven’t told you yet, but that day was Raul’s birthday and to celebrate it with style we made our way to Kōbe to have a very fancy dinner. Japanese have their own breed of cattle: Tajima and in Kōbe you can get THE BEST (yes, all in capital letters!) steak in the world!!! It is really that good! We recommend you the restaurant Moria (2nd floor, there is another on the 3rd floor, but I think is more expensive), Kōbe beef is not cheap, but it’s worth every penny! You decide what kind of meat you want and the cook prepares it in front of you, slowly while you eat so that it doesn’t get cold. It’s AWESOME!!! The meat is soft as butter and tastes delicious! I hope you had a very nice birthday my love! On the next post: Kyōto! See you! xo

Japan#3: Aso/Beppu & Hiroshima/Miyajima

Sorry for the long pause... the last ryokan had free WiFi ONLY in the lobby and it was just weird. Everybody had to check their mails on the way out or in with the ryokan staff watching over you and after 7o’clock in the evening the lobby got full of very quiet people submerged on their laptops or cell phones. Very nice people of the ryokan: expand your WiFi range!!! I’m a little behind on my tale... we left Kumamoto early in the morning and made our way to the Aso San Area. It’s practically a still active volcano... and even though Kurosawa has used this site as a backdrop for some of his movies, it was just not my thing... i just don’t see what is so amazing about a place where there is nothing to see but rocks and you can’t even stay there that long because of the fumes. Well, the bus ride back to the train station took 30 minutes, there we took a train just for the next stop, where we had to take a bus to the next train station. Apparently there was a very strong taifun that destroyed a part oft he railway. The bus, if you could call that a bus, it was more like a minivan, was packed with very loud chinese people (i don’t have anything against chinese people, but this particular ones were very loud and by that time i was just not in the mood...). For the last part of the trip we had to take another train, which was also full, this time with giggling teenagers on their way to an amusement park. I was fuming! I was just so pissed & tired! I knew that it was not the giggling girls fault, nor my husbands for wanting to go to the volcano, nor the poor japanese people that lost some railway because of a taifun... it was nobody’s fault... it was just too much.  Finally in Beppu we got to our ryokan and were treated to an hour at an onsen (a mineral hot spring bath) and after that the world was just fine again :-) Beppu is a nice spa town by the sea and if you ever go there, we highly recommend you the Toyotsune Restaurant. Ask for the specialty: Tendon, huge fried prawns and vegetables over rice (the only disadvantage is that they already close at 10. So don’t go too late!) Sadly we stayed there just one night and our next stop was back in the main island Honshu at the city of Hiroshima. Even though its history is a sad one (or maybe just because of it) Hiroshima is one of the nicest cities we visited. The Peace Memorial Park houses the cenotaph, where the names of all the known victims of the bomb are written, the Flame of Peace, the Children’s Peace Monument and a nice hanami spot just by the river. Across from the park is the A-Bomb Dome (On August 6th 1945, the Bomb exploded almost directly above it) and a little north from it is the small Castle of Hiroshima surrounded by a beautiful garden and a moat. Again we had a satisfying food experience at the Hassei, where they specialize on Okonomiyaki. If you are ever in Hiroshima just go there and try it! (They also have half size okonomiyaki!) On the next day we left our things at the train station and took the train to the very near island of Miyajima. In the old days, the shrine on the island was only accessible through the floating torii (entrance gate to a Shinto shrine). Apart from the main shrine, there are various other temples. It really felt like a temple themed park! It was all so pretty and some of the gods were clad in self made hats and scarfs :-) It was a nice trip, even though there were a lot of tourists and it was really windy & cold. But we even got to see a Shinto wedding ceremony! See you next time! (hopefully before next week!) xo

Japan#2: Fukuoka & Kumamoto

Next stop on our trip was the city of Fukuoka. We stayed at a traditional japanese guesthouse, a ryokan, but those pictures will have to wait, because i forgot to bring my card-adapter so i’m using my husbands pictures for now. I know i could just buy one here, but i’m afraid of going inside a mall... ;-) We want to wait to buy presents and stuff on our last stops so we don’t have to carry them around just yet (and the truth oft hat in the next story)... Anyway, back to Fukuoka. We met a japanese friend of mine there and finally did some hanami (flower watching). The cherry trees were in full bloom and it was sooo beautiful! I finally understand why people like it so much, it really is quite an experience to sit in the park eating karaage and drinking sake while surrounded by white and pink flowers J BTW do you know the Moomins? I came across these outside a Moomin themed coffee shop! After a whole day of hanami and very nice company we packed our things and moved on to one of the most famous castles in Japan: Kumamoto Castle. Sadly the weather was bad and we got a little wet, but it was nice anyway. The castle in itself is quite big and the outside is beautiful, but it is a little disappointing, since the inside is nothing but concrete walls where you can learn about the castle’s history and how the inside used to look like. On behalf on that we visited a real japanese traditional house once belonging to a daimyō (a japanese feudal lord). You had to leave your shoes outside and wander around the house in your socks (which is very common in Japan). The surrounding gardens were also very pretty. Well my next post will be the last one from Kyushu, since we are taking our route back to the main island Honshu. See you soon! xo

Japan#1: Osaka & Nara

We are in Japan! We arrived at Kansai Airport and were very confused about the kind of ticket we should buy to get to our hotel by train. There are a LOT of different train-types! Well maybe not, but it felt like it… after some time -and help-  we finally jumped on the right train to Ōsaka. Our hotel room was the smallest, most practical, awesome room ever! :-D As you can see the bathroom “walls” were windows… very sexy ;-) We took a little nap –by the time I was already dying of sleep deprivation- and after a refreshing shower we made our way to the city. Our first stop was the Umeda Sky Building, where you can enjoy the Ōsaka Skyline from 170m height. There were a lot of teenagers on dates. The building offers some “romantic” viewing points for 2 and you can “seal” your love with a lock… it was very fun to watch all those shy, giggling lovebirds! And when I say it was fun, it’s because I make fun of them :-D Afterwards we got something to eat at the dōtombori, Ōsakas night life area. Even though it was really cold, it was packed with more giggling teenager girls in extremely short skirts and extremely high heels. In the middle of all this craziness is a small temple, hōzenji. On the next day we took a trip to Nara, Japans first capital city. The todaiji temple is the worlds biggest building made out of wood. It’s really impressive. The daibutsu is also one of the biggest bronze Buddha statues. It IS really big! The gardens surrounding the todaiji temple are full of very people friendly deer –you can buy “deer food” in almost every corner and they are used to be fed by people.There were also many smaller temples. It was all very pretty! Even though we were tired and our feet hurt really bad, we decided to visit the kaiyukan, the Ōsaka Aquarium. It has a huge tank in the middle of the building where they house a whale shark, hammerhead sharks, manta rays and other fish. They even have dolphins and penguins :-) It was fun. And you won’t believe how full of people it was even at 6 on a Sunday evening. As always there were a lot of teenagers on dates… well at least japanese guys try hard to impress the girls by taking them to fun places and not just to the cinema or to a bar ;-D Our next stop was Fukuoka. But that story will have to wait untill next time since it took me like forever to write and edit this post... ;-) xo

Off to Japan

This post will be for the moment the last one because... WE ARE GOING TO JAPAN!!! :-D It is our delayed honeymoon! and... FYI I study japanese at the University of Munich and it has always been my dream to go to Japan. We are going to be there on time for hanami 花見 which translated it's "flower viewing" and it refers to the japanese tradition of watching and enjoying the blossoming of the cherry and plum trees. It is THE time of the year to be in Japan :-) We are going to tour the south and center of Japan. We arrive at Osaka Airport and spend there a couple of days. We will then take the train to Fukuoka, which is in Kyushu, the westernmost island of Japan. From there we take the same tour back, but staying at and visiting some key places like Hiroshima, Kobe, etc. Our last stop will be Tokyo. I tried to draw you a map, but my Photoshop skills are not that good... just humor me :-) We are going to be there two and a half weeks and on our way back to Germany we're going to spend four days in Shanghai :-D I'm really hoping to have some time -and internet capability- to post something while abroad and show you a little bit of what's going on, but if i don't... well... you will probably get a full report when we come back. Anyway i leave you with what my last week looked like:   As you can see i did a LOT of laundry... i had my normal laundry and my bedsheets laundry and of course the oh-but-i-want-to-take-the-socks-that-i'm-wearing-right-now-to-the-trip-laundry... yeah, sometimes i'm not very smart... and we only had ONE nice day... winter can kiss my... well you know what i mean. I had a lot to do and didn't even finish everything i wanted to, for example sending my brother some cookies! i'm sooooo sorry! you know i love you anyway! i'll bring you something nice from japan! a "vending machine surprise" ;-) Well you can only do so much in one week...   I wish you all a Happy Easter! xo