Japan 2014 – Day 12

Well, that’s it almost over.

I’ll lose wi-fi connection in about an hour when I check out of the hotel so just time for a final update.

I’ll spend my last few hours in Japan wandering around the tourist shops of Namba then it’s off to Kansai airport for the flight to Dubai, then after a brief stop over at Dubai, it’s onwards to Glasgow.

It’s difficult to tell from the small camera screen if the photos are sharp, exposed correctly, well composed, etc, but when I get home I’ll copy them over to my computer and have a look.

So far, I’ve taken 1673 photos in Japan so hopefully at least one will be good enough to share with you! 🙂

Thanks for sharing the trip with me and for all the nice comments and messages while I’ve been here 🙂

My final blog image is from the Neko-cafe I visited a few days ago; It’s how I’m likely to feel by the time I get home!


Japan 2014 – Day 11

My final full day in Japan was spent back at Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto.

After a nice lunch I returned to the bamboo groves then went on to visit Okochi Sanso, a private garden villa constructed by the Japanese silent movie actor Okochi Denjiro over a 30 year period before his death in 1962.
The garden is full of cherry trees, maple trees and pine and is a lovely place to spend an hour or two.

After the gardens I returned back over the “Moon Crossing Bridge” and headed up the side of Mount Arashi to visit the Iwatayama Monkey Park, home to around 170 wild monkeys. (Japanese macaque monkeys)
As well as getting some photos of the monkeys, the view from the park, which is 160m (525ft) above the River Oi below is quite impressive so I grabbed a few shots of the town and Kyoto too!

Back at Osaka tonight, I had a last walk around the entertainment and shopping districts of Shinsaibashi and Dontonburi.

After the shops I decided to visit Burger King.
Now, I know that this doesn’t really sound like a particularly Japanese end to the trip but since last Friday, Burger King have been selling the kuro burger at outlets in Japan.
A Japanese exclusive burger, the kuro is presented in a jet black bun, cheese coloured black with bamboo charcoal and squid ink ketchup…

So, my visit to Japan began with a curry containing squid ink, and ended with a burger coloured with squid ink…

Tomorrow I pack up and head off on the long journey home to Scotland.

I’m not sure what will be the hardest thing to adapt to when I get home: the temperature change or the absence of squid ink!!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading about my visit, please follow my blog and like my Facebook page to be sure of seeing all the photos from the trip! 🙂

Japan 2014 – Day 10

Today was spent at Japan’s ancient capital of Nara, which is about an hour away from Osaka by direct train from JR Osaka Namba.

Nara is a lot quieter than Kyoto, and everything is within walking distance, so today was a lot more relaxed than yesterday.
I even managed to avoid being mauled by the gentle woodland herbivores that I was so stressed about before the visit… (See yesterday’s blog if that needs explained!)

The visit started with a leisurely stroll from JR Nara station to the Kofukuji Temple, an important Buddhist temple which includes a three story and a five story pagoda.
From this point onwards the rest of the day was also spent in the company of hundreds of wild sika deer… which are considered devine heavenly creatures in Nara…

After Kofukuji, it was a 15 minute walk to a traditional Japanese garden (Yoshikien Garden) which is actually three separate gardens (a water garden, moss garden and a flower garden).
While at the moss garden I stopped for a while to enjoy a traditional whisked green tea sitting on a mat in the sun on the balcony of a tea house.

After the gardens I had another brief walk to the famous Todai-ji Buddhist temple, until 1998 the largest wooden structure in the world and home to the worlds largest bronze statue of the Buddha Daibutso, which, even though seated, is 52ft (16m) high!

From Todai-ji it was another brief walk past a lovely pond (Kagami-ike pond) teaming with carp and turtles, and with a small island in the centre which had a shrine and torii gate.

My final location for today was the Shinto Kasuga Taisha Shrine, which was a brief walk away through some beautiful camphor woods.

I managed to take a lot of photos today which I’ll share on my Facebook page and here on my blog when I return home to Scotland later this week.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Japan and I’ll be spending it back at Arishiyama, where I’ll be visiting a monkey park, revisiting the bamboo groves and taking a boat trip down the Oi river in the hope of seeing some fishermen using the traditional method of using cormorants to catch their fish!

Hope you’re enjoying reading about the trip. I’m looking forward to sharing the photos from this trip when I get home! 🙂

Japan 2014 – Day 9

Busy day today in and around Kyoto.

I travelled by train from Osaka to Kawaramachi station in Kyoto, then walked to Gion-shijo station for another train to Fushimi-inari.

Fushimi-inari is the head shrine of the Shinto kami Inari in Japan. Kami are spirits or natural phenomenon that are worshipped as part of the Shinto religion. Inari are the kami of foxes, and of fertility, rice, tea and sake, agriculture and industry and general worldly success and prosperity.

Inari is one of the most popular kami in Japan with around a third of all Shinto shrines dedicated to them.

This particular shrine is famous for its thousands of torii gates.

Fans of the film “memoirs of a geisha” will recognise the torii gates as part of the film was shot in the shrine.
I spent a few hours here and took lots of photos of the gates and surrounding shrines, so hopefully I’ll be able to share some of these with you when I return home.

After the shrine I spent some time in a neko-cafe near the train station.
This is basically a cafe where you pay to spend some time with some of the most chilled out cats I’ve ever met!

After relaxing with some cats for a while it was back on the train to Gion for sunset so that I could grab some shots of the famous tea-rooms as they woke for the night.
I was also hoping to grab some shots of geisha on their way between their okiya and the tea-houses.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see any geisha on this trip but I did catch a few locals (men and women) in traditional kimono, so look out for them when I get home!

I’m off to Nara tomorrow, ancient capital of Japan, and home to the Todai-ji Buddhist temple, the largest wooden structure in the world.
According to legend, the god Takemizazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. Since then deer have been regarded as heavenly creatures and thousands of wild sika deer roam freely around the town.

I’m a bit nervous about this trip as last time I was there a deer BIT my backside…!

Japan 2014 – Day 8


I travelled to Mount Koya today out towards the Pacific Ocean.

This is the first place I’ve returned to on this trip that I’d visited last time I was in Japan (except of course Osaka)

A rather long (3hr) series of train journeys / changes finishing with a cable car ride up the mountain side and a bus journey along single track mountain passes saw me safely to the gates of Okunoin, Japan’s largest cemetery and home to many sacred Buddhist temples and shrines.

After a lunch of rice and chicken with miso soup and beer at a nearby cafe, it was a leisurely stroll through Okunoin back towards the town centre.

The weather wasn’t ideal; dull and overcast, but I managed to grab quite a few photos from Okunoin on my way through which I hope to share with you when I get back to Scotland.

There are some fascinating places to visit in the cemetery including a well where it is said if you can’t see your own reflection in the water, you will die within the next 3 years, and a standing stone where legend has it, if you place your ear against the stone you can hear the screams in hell…
(For the record, I saw my reflection in the well AND put my eat to the stone – although I dare not say what I heard… 😉 )

After a long walk and some shopping it was back to Osaka.

Tonight was spent at the Hard Rock Cafe in Osaka, listening to some live music and having a few beers.

Tomorrow I’ll be returning to Kyoto and, in the evening, Gion, where I’ll be hoping to get some photos of the geisha and the traditional tea houses.

Japan 2014 – Day 7

Day off today at Universal Studios Japan.

The trip was straight forward: walk to JR Namba then train to Nishikujo and quick change of train then two stops to Universal City station.

I’m not really a huge fan of theme parks but if you enjoy overpriced plastic trinkets or standing in line for 1-3hrs at a time in order to take a seat on a 10 minute ride I can recommend it!.
I found myself on the “back to the future” ride, then “jaws”, “Jurassic park” and finally “terminator 2”
Also had a wander around Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.

Jurassic park was probably my favourite.

Tomorrow I’m off to Koyasan. The first place I’m returning to that I also visited last time I was here. (Excluding Osaka of course!)

Koyasan is a world heritage site and will celebrate it’s 1200th anniversary in 2015. It’s a huge series of Buddhist shrines and temples high on mount Koya which is around 2hrs from Osaka in the wakayama prefecture out towards the Pacific Ocean.

It is also home to Okunoin, Japan’s largest cemetery. (A little morbid I know but it is seriously photogenic!)

Anyway, early night tonight as I have a very early start. Looking forward to updating you tomorrow on my trip to Koyasan. 🙂


Japan 2014 – Day 6

The weather was a little disappointing today as I made my way towards Lake Biwa and the town of Otsu. Still very warm, but grey and overcast and a little windy.

The trip was a bit convoluted: subway from Namba to Umeda; train from Umeda to Kawaramachi in Kyoto; a walk to Kyoto JR station then the train to Otsu.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe Otsu all day…
Lake Biwa is a beautiful area and very like Scotland’s Loch Lomond in terms of popularity and proximity to a major city (Osaka / Glasgow)
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of the lake, but on arrival at Otsu I imagine I felt the same way a Japanese tourist might feel if they’d travelled all the way to Scotland to see Loch Lomond only to accidentally step off the train in Renton…

A walk through Otsu in an attempt at finding a nice viewpoint proved fruitless, so instead, I decided to visit Shiga Midera, a nearby Buddhist temple considered one of the “four great temples of Japan”
The temple is huge and I managed to grab a few shots in and around the main temples and surrounding gardens. (Parts of the temple have a no photography rule)

Back in Osaka tonight, I visited a Ramen restaurant voted “best Ramen in Osaka” (called “Ippudo”) and had some nice Shiromaru ramen (with the obligatory Asahi beer to wash it down!)

Tomorrow is a photo day off as I’m going to universal studios, the movie theme park; so I’ll be busy all day dodging Jurassic park dinosaurs and casting spells as Harry Potter, etc…

I’ll try to get some photos in the evening though! 🙂

(PS: Apologies to anyone from Otsu / Renton… Or anyone not from Scotland who doesn’t get the reference)

Japan 2014 – Day 5

Headed to Arashiyama near Kyoto today.

Again another straightforward trip from Namba: subway to Umeda, train to Katsura then connecting local train to Arashiyama.

The main reason I wanted to visit Arashiyama was to see the bamboo groves of Sagano, but, during the visit I discovered the Tenryu Shiseizen-ji temple. This is the head temple of Rinzai Zen Buddhism in Japan, built in 1339 to venerate Gautama Buddha.

The temple sits within some beautiful gardens and with the mountain of Arashiyama (the storm mountain) beyond, it is a beautiful place to just sit and watch the world go by.

I managed to get some photos of locals in traditional dress near the temple and some nice shots of the temple and the bamboo groves, so look out for them on my Facebook page and here on my blog when I return! 🙂

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll be heading off to Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, which lies to the northeast of Kyoto.

Japan 2014 – Day 4

Brief update today…

Just before setting off for Kyoto and the bamboo groves of Arashiyama, I discovered that today was a Japanese national holiday (respect the aged day) and that most popular visitor attractions would be busier than ever.

With this in mind I decided to reschedule the Kyoto trip and instead had a wander around Osaka’s Nipponbashi district (known locally as Den-Den town)
Nipponbashi is famous for it’s electronics, collectables, anime and manga stores. Not to mention a huge number of cosplay / maid cafés.
(There are girls dressed in French maid outfits on every corner inviting customers into their cafés…)

I joked yesterday about not knowing the Japanese for “Allen keys” and thankfully I didn’t need to know as almost immediately on arrival i found a hardware store and picked up a set for less than £3!
So, the mini-tripod is repaired! 🙂

Finished the “day off” by getting lost amongst the huge number of shops in the subterranean Namba city / Namba Walk / Namba Parks shopping complex.

To give some perspective here: Namba Parks is a 5 floor shopping and entertainment complex linked to a 30 floor office complex.
Namba city is a 400+ shop and restaurant mall and Namba walk is a 2km long underground shopping mall.

All in, more than 1000 shops and restaurants spread over 5 floors – each floor longer than Glasgow’s famous Buchanan Street shopping area!

After the mall – tomorrow’s long walk through the Japanese countryside is going to be easy!

Oh, and before anyone asks, no. I didn’t get any special respect on “respect the aged” day…!!

Japan 2014 – Day 3

Spent a couple of hours first thing arranging rail passes and picking up tour guides, etc.

As I’d hoped, the trip to Minoo National Park was fairly straight forward: subway to Umeda, railway to Ishibashi then connecting train to Minoh. All in, maybe an hour and a half travel from my base at Namba.

The highlight of the park is the 33m waterfall which is approximately 3km walk along a well laid out path which climbs steadily up through a forest of Momiji and cedar trees and passes some traditional tea-houses and temples. (Not to mention regular vending machines supplying ice cold beers – we could do with some of them back in Scotland!)
The area around the falls is apparently home to wild monkeys and deer, although I saw neither on my visit.

The park is clearly very popular with the locals with families making the most of the beautiful scenery.

I can imagine that in spring and autumn, the forest colours must be amazing. The first signs of autumn were just visible in some of the trees and most guide books recommend November for a visit when the trees are blood red and orange. I’d love to visit again then!

Followers of my photo page on Facebook will know I regularly visit national parks back in Scotland and the first thing that that struck me about Minoo Park was just how busy it was compared to the Scottish parks!

I’m certainly going to have to work hard to get some photos that do justice to the place as the number of people at each location is quite incredible!


The evening was spent with a walk around the entertainment and shopping districts of shinsaibashi and dontonburi and a lovely meal of raw salmon and rice with wasabi and soya sauce. Also had some vegetable tempura and gyoza.

So, a day of contrasts – beautiful forests and waterfalls to begin with and neon lights, karaoke bars and pachinko malls to finish!

Weather permitting, I’m hoping to set off for the bamboo groves of Arashiyama near Kyoto tomorrow.
I’ve been pre-warned that they can be busier than Minoo, but fingers crossed for some nice photo opportunities!

The small tripod I brought has developed a small problem so unless I can locate a small toolkit to fix it, I may be back to handheld shots for the rest of the trip. (Anyone know the japanese for “do you sell Allen keys” ??)

I’ll update you all tomorrow! Thanks for all the nice comments and messages. 🙂