4 places in 2 days
Our longest travel day was going from Koya San to the island of Miyajima. With a total of 7 legs we thought it would take us most of the day, but we were stepping off the ferry onto the island before 2pm – Japans public transport is amazing! I already knew about Miyajimas tame dear, who spend their days sticking their noses in tourists pockets looking for food, and the red Torri Gate so we spent some time checking these out first.
The real surprise of the day though was the incredible views from the peak of Mt Misen. If we had had more time we would have trekked the full 3 hours to the top, but instead we made the most of the cable car which dropped us off near the top and left us with just a short 30min hike to the peak.
The next day we had an early start as we were heading to Kyoto and wanted to make the most of a couple of stopovers en route. The first was Hiroshima. We saw the A-Bomb memorial coincidently at 8.15am, the exact time the bomb struck in August 1945, and then visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was sobering and sad. An entire city and over 140,000 lives lost in a second…it’s impossible to take it in.
Our second stop over was to see Hemeji Castle. As with Hiroshima, we left our bag in a locker, which you find at all the train stations, and walked the short 20minutes to the site. The castle was nice to see and very impressive once up close. We were also lucky to catch a few cherry blossom in mid bloom.
To make the most of the last couple of sunlight hours, once we had arrived in Kyoto, we headed to see the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Afterwards, while wandering around the Gion district, we accidentally stumbled across Nanzen-ji temple as they were reopening for night time entry. It was completely empty which gave us a peaceful and mystical walk around the grounds and bamboo forest. It made a welcome change after the hectic crowds at Fushimi Inari.
Exploring more than just temples in Kyoto
Kyoto is a busy city with an impossible amount of attractions to keep you busy. Cyclists are allowed to go on the paths so the best way by far to travel around is by bike…electric of course. At just $15 for a day of hire, the bikes were a bargain. We saw so much and with a grid system similar to america, the navigation was easy. My favourite moments were cycling the Path of Philosophy, Nishiki market and Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple.
The absolute highlight, not just of the day, but of the whole trip, has to be seeing a spring geisha dance. It’s one of the few times in the year when the Geisha perform to the public. Fascinating, elegant and beautiful, it is something that I will remember forever.
Before setting off from Kyoto there was one final place we wanted to see – Nara. Easy to get to from Kyoto (or Osaka), we visited comfortably in half a day. There were 2 things that we were hoping to see. The first is the bowing dear. You bow at them, they bow back. It’s so funny and they are so sweet that I spent at least an hour scratching their ears and feeding them crackers.
The second sight is in the Todai-ji Temple which holds the largest bronze statue of the Buddha. Walking past the waft of thick incense that greets you at the entrance, and through the doors of the huge wooden temple, I looked up and got goosebumps. The statue is simply huge. It is impossible not to feel in awe of its gigantic presence.
Continue with my journey – Japan: Part 3