Summer in Japan

08/05/2016 - 08/22/2016
by Andy


DAY 1 - flight from Prague to Haneda via Shanghai

DAY 2 - Tokyo - Ueno park, Senso-Ji Temple, Tokyo Skytree

DAY 3 - Tokyo - Tsukuji market, Ginza, Imperial Palace, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku, Meiji Jingu Temple, Shibuya

DAY 4 - Matsumoto Castle, Hakuba, Happo Lake hike

DAY 5 - Nagano - Zenko-ji Temple

DAY 6 - Nikko

DAY 7 - 8 - Mount Fuji transfer and climb

DAY 9 - Kyoto - Nijo Castle

DAY 10 - Kyoto - Golden Pavillon, Arashiama bamboo forest, Monkey hill, Fushimi Inari Shrine

DAY 11 - Kyoto - Imperial Palace, Nishiki market, Gion, Pontocho Alley, Kiyomizu-dera Temple

DAY 12 - Koyasan - temple stay

DAY 13 - Osaka

DAY 14 - Osaka - daytrip to Nara

DAY 15 - Himeji castle, Hiroshima - Hiroshima Memorial park

DAY 16 - Hiroshima - Shukkeien Garden, Hiroshima Castle, Atomic Dome, museum

DAY 17 - Fukuoka - flight to Busan

Day 1 - 3 - Tokyo

After a fairly good flight on China Eastern we landed at Haneda airport in the evening. I highly recommend the Haneda airport, since it is really easy to get to the center.

We got up early in the morning and first visited the Ueno Park, which is really nice, with beautiful lake and small temples everywhere, near the park itself is a nice alley full of small stores and restaurants (in most you choose your meal from a vending machine). From there it was not far to the famous Sensjo-ji temple. The temple is nice, crowded with people and tourists dressed in traditional clothing, which was available for rental. We then took a small stroll along the river and reached the Tokyo Skytree to watch the sunset.

The next morning we went straight to the Tsukuji fish market to get fresh sushi for breakfast, well it was fresh. On the way to the East Imperial Gardens we walked along the Ginza district, great for luxury shopping. The gardes were nice, but in hot weather, there are only few places to hide in shade. Further we took a subway to Shinjuku, where we visited the free viewing platform at Government building, easy, fast, no lines. Shinjuku was a great place to get lost for a while and get some food. From there we walked to the Meiji Jingu temple, which was fabulous. The walkway goes through forest, it is cooler and since it was getting late, the sun was amazing. After sunset we stopped at the Shibuya district, walked across the famous crossing and stopped for dinner. After the whole day and 20+ kilometers on foot, we were ready to go to bed.

Day 4 - Matsumoto castle, Happo One resort

Today we got up really early and took the morning train to Matsumoto. From the train station it was a short walk to the castle, where we got just before opening. It was amazingly quite and beautiful. We found many great information about the castle history inside. Later we took a train bound for Hakuba and we walked to the Happo One ski resort where we took a cable car all the way to the top. From there there are many hiking options, since it was getting late, we decided to go only to the Happo Lake, which was nice and easy hike with great views down to the valley. The Happo center is fairly deserted during summer with only few places open, but it was really nice and quiet.

Day 5 - Nagano

After great hike in Hakuba and evening spent in local onsen, we took the train to Nagano (it is a long journey on train, but with Japan Rail pass it is for free). In Nagano we just visited Zenkoji temple, which was a nice suprise, the walkway to the temple is full of small stores and the place has a great atmosphere.

Day 6 - Nikko

This day was long, first we took a train to Nikko, great small town in the mountains with many temples, great scenery and cooler climate. From the train station we walked to the temples (around 40 minutes). Most of the temples are well hidden inside the forest and the area is really beautiful. The only downside was that many temples were being reconstructed. If you visit early in the morning, you have a chance of seeing the place without crowds. From the temples there was an option to take a bus to the nearby lake and waterfalls (with many hiking options), but since we hiked in the Alps we did not go there. We instead took another train bound for Kawaguchiko, from where we wanted to hike up to Mount Fuji.

Day 7 - 8 - Mount Fuji

After Nikko we took different trains to get to Kawaguchiko, which was our base for Mount Fuji climb. Since it was quite far away, the first day we got to the town in the afternoon, walked around the small town and lake and prepared for the climb. We wanted to climb the mountain in the afternoon, spend a night close to the top and then walk to the top for sunrise, but since we got little bit ill we decided to spend the night at a hotel in Kawaguchiko (really expensive and basic place).

The next day we took the morning bus to the 5th station from where we took the Yoshida trail to the summit. Since most people hike there during afternoon, the mountain was fairly empty and the climb up was fast. In less then 3 hours we were on the top. It was unbeliveable that along the trail there was wifi connection and at most of the stations along the way they offered food and drinks, even at the top. The weather changed quickly just before reaching the summit, so we were not able to see the views from the top, but the climb was still great and worth it. It was funny to watch all the hikers climb up in the afternoon, as there was a long long line all the way from the 5th station to the huts along the way.

Day 9 - 11 - Kyoto

From Kawaguchiko we took a bus to Fuji station from where we took a train bound for Kyoto, where we got in the afternoon. We found a great accommodation close to the Nijo castle at great price with tatami floor and futon beds, which we liked a lot. In the afternoon we stopped at the Nijo castle, which was one of the most beautiful castles from the inside that we visited.

We had no plans for the next day, we just took a map and pointed out the place which looked nice. First we ended up walking to the Golden pavillon, the walk was fairly long, but hey, walking along the streets might be the best way how to soak the atmospehere of the city. The temple was nice, little bit crowded again, but worth the stop. Further we continued to the Arashiyama, where we walked throught the bamboo forest (which usually looks way better on photos than in reality), we especially liked the slow river and the nice view of the valley, where we just relaxed. Later we climbed to the Monkey hill, we were quite surprised, that it was further than we expeced, but with nice views and people in cages watching monkeys to play outside. In late afternoon we took a train to Fushimi Inari Shrine, which was beautifully colored due to the upcoming sunset. We took the hike throught the gates, which was again longer than we expected and ended up back down long after sunset.

Our last day in Kyoto we spend in the mostly close to Gion, walked along the market and stopped for food at Pontocho Alley and visited the Kiomizu-dera temple, which was again fascinating, we especially enjoyed the narrow streets that lead you to the temple.


Day 12 - Koyasan

Today we got up early again and took a train to Koyasan, via Osaka. The last leg of our journey was on a steep tram, which got us almost to our destination. From there we walked to the temple town of Koyasan (there were many sings that warned agains the bears, so keep watch for them). The place was really nice, with many temples, cooler weather and one of the biggest and most beautiful graveyards we have ever seen. We spend walking along the narrow paths almost the whole day and in the evening we got accommodation in one of the many temples. Our temple offered nice tatami floor, futon beds, nice onsen, local vegeteranian food and many other activities (like meditation, morning prayer, writing in symbols and others). In the evening, when it got dark and quite we went to the temples again and it was magical. It was really a unique experience and we were glad we decided to stay there.

Day 13 - Osaka

After Koyasan we took the train back to Osaka, where we got just after noon and spend the rest of the day walking along the city, visiting Dotonbori and some huge shopping malls with everything.

Day 14 - Nara

The next day we took a morning train bound for Nara, the journey took only about an hour and then a short walk from the train station (there are many lines, JR or private railways). There were again many temples (one of them should be the biggest wooden structure in the world) and beautiful gardens and parks in Nara, but I belive that many people visit this place because deers, that are everywhere in the park, active in the morning, hiding in the shade in the afternoon. With people selling food for them, you can feed even feed them. The deers learnt to bent down the head in order to receive the food, you can try that. We spend there couple hours and when the weather got really hot and humid we took a train back to Osaka. By the way you can find many cheap and great love hotels in Osaka, that are good even for longer stays.

Day 15 - Himeji castle, Hiroshima

After funny trip to Nara we took another train, this time to Himeji (you can take local slow train or shinkansen, we took the faster one). From the train station in Himeji it is just a short walk to the castle, most of the time you walk along the street lined with stores and restaurants and a roof which offers a bit of shade. The white castle is probably the one most photographed in Japan. The castle is nice and vast, offers great views both from the inside and otside, might be little bit crowded. The only downside during our visit was that it was extremelly hote and humid and once we entered the castle there were no options to buy drinks. Later that day we took another train to Hiroshima, where we got in the late afternoon. Since we wanted to experience different kinds of accommodation, this time we picked the capsules, which were suprisingly nice, clean and comfortable. In the evening we visited the Memorial park. It was a strange feeling beeing there when you thought about the history.

Day 16 - Hiroshima

After great night in the capsule hotel we went on exploring Hiroshima. First we needed to get cash, finding ATM was suprisingly hard. Then we spend the morning in the landscape garden, which was beautiful and peaceful, except the mosquitos. From there we continued to Hiroshima castle, which was a replice, since the original was destroyed during the war, but still the castle was nice and offered great view. Later we continued across the Memorial park to the museum. The museum itself was both amazing and depressive, probably one of the best museums that we ever visited and it gave us a great understanding of what happend after the atomic bomb was launched. In the afternoon we just wondered around the city and needed to absorb the experience. Since it was our last day in Japan, we then packed our suitcases, spend another night at the capsule hotel and got ready for the next adventure in Korea.

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