As has been established on this blog I love food! I love trying new food and love exploring local products and dishes when away. Japan for me was one of the most eye-opening experiences for food that I have ever had, the array of things that were on offer, the seafood I have never seen or heard of, it was crazy!!
The food is so varied, from the small traditional local hotspots serving udon noodle soups, tempura everything and gyoza, to the more exerimental and up market like Ninja restaurant in Tokyo – decked out like an ancient castle and the waiters dressed as Ninjas – http://www.ninjaakasaka.com/. The prices of food vary like the cuisine, and you can spend a few pounds on a hearty meal or spend hundreds, sometimes by mistake like we did on our first night – note to self figure out the exchange rate before heading to Ninja restaurant again! Totally worth a visit though! There were different set menus and each course got more interesting and bizarre – one dish had dry ice in it, oh yes! and our cocktails had gold in them! Throughout the trip we tried as many different things as possible, and gained amazing chopstick skills – trying to cut the head off a little fish with them was a challenge to say the least. Some of the best food we had was the simplest, heading into a little Izakaya ( a bit like a pub) you get casual simple food that tastes great. Of course there are the restaurants that specialise, like sushi or gyoza restaurants. Some of the best meals we had were just in simple gyoza restaurants, gyoza, dipping sauce and a beer, yum! The best gyoza we had was in Kyoto – Senmonten, definitely worth a visit. It’s a tiny door way on a street lined with shops and restaurants, we walked past it twice and almost gave up looking for it, but then we found the door and were in a dumpling heaven!
If you are hungry then you can always find something to eat in Japan, for a nation that travel by train a lot, the food stalls and shops in the stations are packed to the brim with different food, the more well established cookies, bento, or perhaps you fancy snacking on dried fish or octopus on your journey?! Yes that’s right, the Japanese love their fish and snacking on the dried kind when travelling is not an uncommon sight… not really for me, we tended to stick with the more traditional Poki sticks! One thing that will always stick in mind about Japan are their vending machines, they are everywhere and usually in groups. You can get pretty much everything for a vending machine in Japan, and trust me the novelty does not ware off…. best find…. the beer vending machine, always a great idea when heading back to your hostel after the bar has closed!
Other than amazing and in some cases very odd food, Japan is an amazing country. It has so much history and stunning natural beauty it was hard to leave, and its most definitely on the list to return to as I only scratched the surface in my first trip. Our itinerary was based around a standard tour of Hikkado ( the main island). Starting in Tokyo we used and abused the Japanese train system with our rail passes, and headed to the Japanese Alps as my friend wanted to ski. We based ourselves in Hakuba, and from there headed south to Kyoto and Osaka, taking a day trip down to Hiroshima. On the way back to Tokyo we stopped off in the Alps again at Takayama.
The Tokyo skyline from the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, hidden from prying eyes.
Sushi from Ninja restaurant – one of the most expensive and bizarre meals ever!
Outside Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Home to all the weird and wonderful creatures of the deep blue sea!
Inside Tsukiji Fish market – get their early and its busy, later in the morning and its quieter, great time to wander.
To the ALPS!
Heading into Jigokundani Monkey Park. In february its very snowy and quiet, great time to visit.
The Monkeys roam free and have fun in the snow. They are like children play fighting with each other
Ok, I may have taken quite a few monkey photos by this point but they just sit their posing for you!
The snow monkeys chill out in the hot springs to stay warm – I was slightly jealous as it was freezing!
The snow in Hakuba town, the ski resort we were staying at!
Inside the Osaka capsule hotel we were staying at. Such a novel way to spend a couple of nights!
the door is closed and almost time for lights out in the capsule….
The bright lights of Osaka
The famous bullet train of Japan. We spent a lot of time whizzing about in trains and they were great – efficient, comfy and clean!
Hiroshima – the peace park a memorial to those who died when the Hiroshima nuclear bomb went off. Its an emotional place.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Hiroshima Castle. You can climb to the top and get amazing views of the city.
Miyajima Island, the famous gate that sits in the sea. The island is full of deer – random!
Exploring Kyoto and its many temple complexes – Kiyomizu-dera
Girls dressed in traditional Kimono
The traditional buildings of Kyoto
Gardens around Kyoto. There is so much hidden and nestled away that Kyoto is a great place to explore on foot.
Geisha hunting around Gion… only saw one and she was too quick for a photo!
These are the gardens at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto – stunning!
Another part of the stunning and calming imperial garden – so tempting to settle down with a good book in there and just take it in.
We spent the day in Nara National Park – its amazing!
Nara is a complex of temples and shrines in a beautiful natural setting and more deer!
Hanging out in Nara
My attempt at an arty shot!
Going traditional at a Ryokan in Takayama
Being in the mountains there was a fair bit of snow – this is the Takayama open air museum full of traditional built houses.
Poking around in the museum houses
Takayama town – a wonderful example of traditional architecture and much quieter than Kyoto
back to TOKYO!
Leaving traditional behind we head back to Kyoto and a lush high rise hotel – this is the view
No trip to Japan is complete without a trip to the iconic Mt Fuji
As we checked out of the hotel we got this view from reception – Mt Fuji and the Tokyo tower from the hotel – stunning! A great way to say good bye to Japan
I hope that gives some idea of how beautiful and lovely Japan is! We only scrathced the surface and there is so much more to see. We were there in February so lots of snow in the Alps but not much in the cities. Most days were beautifully clear as you can see but cold. Most people head to Japan for Cherry Blossom season in the spring or Autumn colours in September/ October, but there was something nice about going out of season! I definitely want to head down to the southern islands next time for a touch of tropical paradise.