Travel Notes & Photoblog: A Week in July
Yes, I know it’s November… I just never finished combing through all my pictures from this summer!
Earlier this year, in mid-July, I had my first visitors since arriving in Japan 15 months earlier! My mom & grandma came out for about 10 days for their first trip to Japan! I spent a lot of time trying to plan a good mix of things to see/do, and here’s what we came up with:
We were lucky that it was nice weather for the most part, though we did get a short rain shower that left us stuck in a sake shop for a little while in the afternoon. We took the Hida Wide View train that has larger windows & fancier seats & only stops a few places. It really is a great view along the way to Takayama. During our day trip to my home-town in Japan, we did a little shopping, met some friends for coffee & a snack, visited the Festival Float Museum, and grabbed a stick or 2 of the famous grilled Hida Beef along the streets. A trip to Takayama wouldn’t be complete without a burger from Center 4 Hamburgers (possibly the best in all of Japan!) and a short rest at the foot Onsen near the station before catching the last express train out of the town. The last express train on Sundays is really early, at 6:45pm!
We left around 8am on Monday morning for Hiroshima, via Shinkansen. We enjoyed the super fast train journey that got us to Hiroshima just before noon. We grabbed a small lunch in the station, checked into our hotel (conveniently located next to the station), and caught the old Hiroshima Street Car to the end of the Peace Park, just across the street from the A-Bomb Dome. We spent the afternoon looking at the remains of the dome, speaking with a man whose mother was a survivor of the bomb, and visiting the Peace Memorial, Museum, & Park Grounds. I could have explored a bit more in the city, but it’s definitely possible to spend just 1/2 to 1 day in Hiroshima like we did. In the evening we dined on the rooftop restaurant at our hotel as the sun went down over the city.
Miyajima is an island about 35 minutes from Hiroshima Station. You can get there a few ways – we opted for the train to Miyajima Ferry Port where we caught the ferry for about 10 minutes across to the island. It was the perfect weather for a morning visit to the island. Hot, sunny, but with a slight breeze. Luckily we arrived while the tide was low, and had the chance to walk up to and around/under the enormous Torii gate that is famous for “floating” while the tide is in. We had a good time on the island & easily could have spent a full day here as well, making our way up to the top of the small mountain. It’s really unbelievable how big the Torii really is, and this island has wild deer roaming around free, like there are in Nara – but these deer are a bit more friendly!
Nagoya Suburbs & Gifu City
Once we returned to Gifu Prefecture, we joined a friend for a huge fancy crab dinner nearby the apartment. It had about a million little dishes for each person’s tray. The picture doesn’t even show everything!
The following day we tried our hand at Pachinko & won about 3000 yen ($30?)!
In the late afternoon/evening, we took a short ride over to Gifu City for an evening boat ride, dinner aboard the boat, & an Ukai fishing demonstration. Ukai fishing is a traditional fishing method using cormorant birds at night who actually catch the fish for the fisherman. It’s really something to see – if you get the chance to see it, you definitely should do it!
Tokyo (Roppongi & Asakusa)
The week ended with our final Shinkansen trip from Nagoya to Tokyo. It was about 2.5 hours long on the ‘slowest’ Shinkansen, which is still pretty fast – but it makes more stops than the top speed ones. It brought us to Shinagawa Station where we then grabbed a taxi to our AirBNB rented apartment in Roppongi Hills for the weekend. We even caught a glimpse of the iconic Tokyo Tower along the taxi ride!
While in Tokyo, we checked out the shopping at Tokyu Hands and the food/Omiyage gift section of the store, located in the basement, before walking around The Imperial Palace outer Garden grounds. The following day turned out pretty nice again, and we took a boat ride along the Sumida River to Asakusa, where the new Tokyo Sky Tree now stands. When we arrived in April 2012 it was not yet open! From there we decided at the last minute to take a rickshaw ride with Ebisu Rickshaw rides. It was actually a lot of fun for the short ride/guided tour of the local area that dropped us off in the market area in front of the Sensoji Temple.
We had a really busy but fun week touring & sharing the country with my family & it was great to visit with them again!