March Japan trip

So I’ve returned to Matsumoto after a 2 week trip of the Honshu Island of Japan together with my cousin from Belgium. I decided to break down the report into the places we visited. The order I broke it down into is from Most boring to Most fun. See below for the full report !

6 : Takayama / Gifu :
I knew what Takayama was like (I was there in November) but I was kinda curious about the rest of the Gifu-Ken. There was still a lot of snow in this Ken, but that was about the only plus. Takayama was boring as I had already seen everything in the city. Plus all Izakaya’s and restaurant close at 6 there for some weird reason. Shirakawago is the most overrated sightseeing spot in Japan. Stay away from it. All in all we should have probably gone to Kobe or Himeji or stayed an extra day in Tokyo to visit Nikko. I’ll save that for the next time I’m in Japan I guess. There will not be a next time in Gifu ken though.

Tokyo :
The things I did in Tokyo were fun. I finally went up the Tokyo Tower (which offers a great view if you go at dusk). Ueno and Asakusa (shitamachi) were pretty cool. I had some beers with some of the Tokyo crew in a cheap Izakaya in Ikebukuro. I had already been to Akihabara, Shibuya and Harajuku so nothing much new there. Yasukuni was pretty dissapointing : all that fuss over a one in a dozen shinto shrine. We were scolded by the guard for trying to take pictures hehe. But Tokyo always gets me depressed for some reason. It’s good to be there for a day or two, but that’s it for me. I’m glad I don’t have to live/study there. I’ll take Matsumoto over Tokyo any day.

Kyoto :
The sightseeing spots in Kyoto are amazing. The Kyomizudera, Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and Sanjusangendo did not fail to impress me (especially the Kinkakuji was cool). We were a bit unlucky as the castle of Kyoto was already closed, but we were treated to a Japanese drum presentation in the garden instead, which was cool. Still the atmosphere in Kyoto was not that good. Too many tourists for one thing. Of course it’s a bit hypocrit to say that when you are one yourself. But the city in general did not give me a pleasant feeling. We also saw the monkey’s on the monkey mountain (forgot the name) and the bamboo forest in the West of town, which was a lot nicer than the center in my opinion. I had to skip on the Ginkakuji so maybe that’s for next time.

Koyasan :
Koyasan was cool, but not essential in my opinion. But I was glad we made the trip. Especially the forest was cool. Unfortunatly the Tokugawa Mausoleum was already closed…

Nara :
Just like in Kyoto there is so much to see. But I felt a lot more comfortable in Nara. The Toudaiji was one of the most impressive things I saw in the entire trip. There are some great hiking paths a lot of the tourist don’t take/ know about North of Nara Kouen. We climbed the 550 meter mountain which offers a great arial view of Nara , and went to the Waterfalls after that. No one else was there so it was very cool. My cousin played Yamabito and sat under the ice cold waterfall. I passed… Anyway the waterfall is my “Osusume” for Nara. Go visit it in the evening :  virtually no one will disturb you during your nature walk. It’s about 5 kilometers north of Todaiji.

Osaka :
We were only in Osaka for about 1 full day but I found the city very pleasant to be in. People were talking to eachother in the subway, everybody was more relaxed. There are some very nice neighbourhoods there (Like Namba, Tsutenkaku, Tenma) filled to the brim with cheap Izakaya’s and traditional restaurants. It’s the opposite from Tokyo for me. I agree with everyone who says Osaka is better than Tokyo. I also saw the whaleshark in the aquarium and of course the Osaka castle  ( but Matsumoto’s is better :p ). And I had Okonomiyaki.

Hiroshima/Miyajima :

This was probably the most amusing part of the journey. Hiroshima City is small compared to the other city’s mentioned above, so you can get round on foot easily and see everything the city has to offer (some beautifull gardens and of course the A-bomb dome etc.) . The second day was spent at Miyajima : deffo something you have to do if you’re in that area. The Torii is cool but the best part is climbing Mount Misen.  Forget the cable car and just climb it via the east route, there were very few other tourists on the route and we encountered no one at the alternative top (the tourist top is at the observatory but that sux) so it was a  great experience with an even greater view of Hiroshima bay and the Seto sea. We also went to the beach but the water was too cold.  Our ryokan was of very high quality (Serrabekan) and offered great loding and food. I also had Hiroshima Okonomiyaki 2 times hehe 🙂 .

My goal is still the same for August : 2 weeks in the North and East of Hokkaido and a daytrip to Sapporo.
I’m not sure yet wether I’ll take the cheaper Sea route from Niigata or the land route through Aomori (a place I also want to see acutally). But untill then my traveling days in Japan are over for now. I will go to the Raidworld Festival in Tokyo on April 26th so I’ll make a report about that. Tomorow it’s back to school for me.



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