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Japan Jessica Rouse

At the ripe young age of 28, I haven’t traveled very far – New Zealand and Airlie Beach are about as far as I’ve gone.

But now I’ve been to Japan, and it was SUGOI!

The 10-hour plane trip north was the worst part of our three-week holiday in Japan. It was long, but after a couple of surprisingly good meals and about six movies, we arrived late at night at Narita Airport.

We had a list of things we wanted to do in Japan with no real plan – because there is so much to see and do! We spent the first part of our adventure in Tokyo where we ventured to the Sensoji Temple at Asakusa, the Tokyo Skytree to take in the view of Tokyo from above, the Tokyo Zoo where we waited in a line for about 45 minutes to see their newest baby pandas Lei Lei and Xiao Xiao, the Nezu Shrine and then to Shibuya to cross one of the busiest zebra crossings in the world and then to eat as much Wagu beef as we could.

In Japan there are temples and there are shrines. Simply, the temples are Buddhist, while the shrines are Shinto and the religions for both vary slightly. Shrines for both are dotted all over Japan and they are beautiful.

We had two more days in Tokyo and managed to fit in one of Tokyo’s oldest fish markets, the Tsukiji Fish Market where we had the most delicious sashimi in a little restaurant hidden away – which included eel… I’m still not sure how I feel about it! We went to the Art Aquarium at Ginza to finish off that day and the next day a last-minute trip to Mt Fuji.

We didn’t go to the bottom of Mt Fuji, instead we went to the Panoramic Ropeway which took us up another mountain where you could get a full view of the second-highest volcano in Asia. After a snack at the top, we made our way back down, crammed into a cable car like sardines and found a tiny sake brewery, Ide Sake Brewery.

The brewery started out as a soy sauce brewery before changing to sake and has been in business for 21 generations.

ATCF 36 Japan 5

The famous bullet train took us to Kyoto for a day trip at almost 300km/hr. We ventured to Inari where we saw bamboo and the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice. It was founded in 711 and is famous for thousands of bright red Torii Gates that go all the way up to the top of Mount Inari.

With so much to see in Japan, daytrips are a necessity.

We took a day trip to Nara Park, famous for hundreds and hundreds of deer that roam freely in the town. It was bizarre, and beautiful at the same time. You get off the train, walk up the hill and there they are. We bought crackers for $3 that you feed them – they bow their head at you to get one, so sweet.

The deer also roam the Todai-Ji Temple where a 15-metre tall Buddah stands, built at the decree of Emperor Shomu in 752AD. Half of the population of Japan helped build the Buddah that still stands proudly today despite the building around it being burnt twice in its long history.

Japan is known for its crazy shops full of the most random items. A lot of these shops are in a crazy place called Dontonburi – street upon street of shops and food and it was hectic! We tried a few things including Takoyaki and I went back the following morning to a shop called Glanto where I made my own white gold rings. Very cool.

Osaka Castle is a must visit as well.

We jumped on another bullet train after our short visit to Osaka and headed to Hiroshima. We went to an Okonomiyaki alley our first night where we tried the food Hiroshima is known for – okonomiyaki is cabbage, egg, noodles and your choice of other toppings. The chef didn’t speak much English but using Google Translate we had a conversation and he told us the area is known for the food because during the war it was made from the little food they had available.

The next day was a trip to the A-Bomb Dome at the Peace Memorial Park, a World Heritage Site since 1996 after the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the city killing hundreds of thousands of people.

It was eerie, made even more so by a man who greeted us with several pieces of paper telling the story of how he survived the bombing, but his mother and siblings didn’t. The museum is a must see, but make sure you mentally prepare yourself as it is quite confronting.

Jessica Rouse Japan

We only ended up with one full day in Hiroshima, so we fit in a tour of the Mazda Museum (which you have to book in for) and I found some of Japan’s famous cheese tarts – so good!

The next day we flew up to Sapporo where it was proper cold, and the snow was incredible. A winter wonderland like I had never seen before!

That was only half of our adventure in Japan… to find out where I got stuck and the beauty of Niseko watch out for the May edition of @ The Coalface!

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