Japan - Nunatak - September/October 2016
Below you will find a list of pictures, taken on our trip to Japan from September 19 2016 to October 8 2016. Work on the page is getting along... I still have to write a text explaining what's on each picture though and create the slideshow.
September 19: Home - Tokyo
As Arjen had forgotten to turn off his alarm clock, we woke up rather early (6AM). We had a relaxed schedule to reach Schiphol Airport. Security took some time, but we were nicely on time to board the plane around 2pm. Just after 3am we were in the air, glad we had bought some extra leg room using frequent flyer miles as it would have been a very long 12 hours...
We arrived at Narita Tokyo Airport around 8.45am. We exchanged our voucher for a train ticket to Ueno. Our Dutch tourguide awaited us there and helped us exchange another voucher for the Japan Rail Pass. It's not cheap, but easily earns itself back after very few train trips as we would experience later. We walked to our hotel to drop off our luggage. Some of the group would arrive later that day, so we and two others went for a walk to Ueno Park to do some sightseeing. We visited some temples and pagodas and then strolled back to our hotel for a nap. At dinner time the rest of the group had arrived as well. Through pooring rain we went to Ueno station as there are many restaurants in that area. After a nice dinner we went back to the hotel, again through pooring rain.
We hadn't slept well, but jet lag wasn't as bad as a couple of years before when visiting Tokyo on a business trip. We took the subway to Tsukiji Fish Market. In a reataurant in an alley just off the main road to the market we had sushi breakfast with miso soup and lots of green tea. Next we visited the fish market. Many exotic species can be found there (some alive). After about an hour we went to Meiji Jingu, an impressive park with temples. From there we walked into the business district where most of the skyscrapers can be found. We went up in the Tokyo Metropolitan Goverment Offices (the South Tower) and walked around the viewing paltform. The sky wasn't very clear, but we had nice views. Unfortunately though we couldn't see Mount Fuji. After lunch at the Iland Tower, we went to Shibuya to see the famous crossing (known by many from the epic movie "Lost in Translation"). We walked through the neighbouring streets and then on to the old red light district. Nowadays the tiny houses host even tinier bars (our group of 12 had to split up as the bars aren't large enough to host even that few people). After an expensive dinner (we felt ripped off because of all the taxes that were added and not mentioned up front). We walked through the streets again to see some of the very impressive neon ads and then took the subway back to our hotel.
September 22: Tokyo - Kawaguchiko
We packed our stuff and after breakfast (a quick sandwhich in our room) we and 6 others headed for Senso-ji, an area with temples area not to far away from Ueno. Unfortunately the reain was pooring down again so instead of walking there as we had planned, we took the train. It was a beautiful temple area, but because of the weather we didn't stay very long. We went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and join the rest of the group. Around 11.30 we took the train to Shinjuku and from there we took the Express Bus to Kawaguchiko, a small town at the base of Mount Fuji. We had a room in the Kawaguchiko Station Inn, facing the vulcano, but due to the bad weather we couldn't see it. The room was decorated Japanese style (no beds, matrasses on the floor), but comfortable none the less. We went to the 7-eleven to buy lunch for the next day and already packed our daypack for the trip to Mount Fuji. We had a very good dinner in the "Tempura Restaurant". Fortunately it was dry when we went there and on the way back. We went to bed early as the next day we'd have to get up early as well.
September 23: Kawaguchiko - Mount Fuji (3.760m / 12,335 ft.) - Kawaguchiko
We got up at 4am and took the taxi at 4.30 to got to 5th Station (2.305m / 7,562 ft.), the starting point of the ascent. Around 5.30 we started walking, it was just getting light, so we didn't need to use the head lights. As the rain was heavy, we couldn't see much. But the landscape around us was just rocks, no trees or even bushes. By 7 we had reached the 7th Station. One person wasn't feeling well. She and her partner decided to go back. 3 others joined them because of the weather. So with 7 we continued. A bit higher, Patricia started to hyperventilate due to trying to go to fast to "get it over with" to get out of the rain. After a short break, close to the 8th Station (3.020m / 9,908 ft.), she started hyperventilating again and decided to go back too. Rob joined her which meant Arjen could continue. With 5 we went on through the pooring rain and storm (the tail of a cyclone passed through the area that day). Just before 11 we reached the top (one of 8) at 3.760m / 12,335 ft.. At the crater edge it was storming and we were barely able to stand still to take a picture - hardly seeing anything anyway due to the rain. In fact we weren't 100% percent sure we had actually been at the crater edge; only when looking back at the GPS data, we were able to determine we indeed had been there... We quickly started our descend. At some point we had missed our trail and gone doen to far. We had to climb up 300m / 984 ft. again befor continuing down. On 2 or 3 occasions, the rain was a bit less and we could see Kawaguchiko in the distance. Just after 3pm we arrived back at 5th Station. At 3.50 we took the bus back to Kawaguchiko, to join the rest of the group. We were awaited by Patricia and Coby to with Mount Fuji chocolates :)
We learned later that day there had been over 10cm / 4in. of rain during the time we were on the mountain...
As Arjen's (quite old) North Face gear wasn't able to keep out that much water, his clothes were soaking. We put them in the drying machine and took a shower to get warm again. After that we went to Raumen for ramen noodles. Very tasty and relatively cheap. Back at the hotel we packed our luggage again and went to bed.
This day we walked approximately 6h5m.
September 24: Kawaguchiko - Takayama
We got up early to pack up and be ready for breakfast at 7. Around 8 we took the Highway Express bus to Takayama (a direct connection, perfect!). just before 1pm we arrived in Takayama, across the road from our hotel (Country Hotel Takayama). As the rooms would not be ready before 3, we stored our bags in the luggage room and went for a walk in the lovely town. We ran into the group that was doing the same trip as us, but had started 1 week before us. They'd just come back from the Japanese Alps and had had very bad weather...
In the center we came across a shop filled with carvings and small statues of bunnies. Wonderful! We went back to the hotel to check in. Next the whole group went to Takayama-Jinya, an old court building slash district office from the Edo era. Very nicely restored.
Around 5.30 we went for dinner at Nihonkai Syoya, famous for their Hida beef. And it indeed was very good. After dinner we went for a stroll, but apparently Takayama is deserted in the evening. We bought some groceries in the shop beneath the hotel and went to bed around 10.30.
After breakfast in our room we gathered in the lobby. We headed for the Miyagawa morning market. Once famous for its fresh vegetables and such, now not much more than food for tourists...
Next we went to the Takayama Betsuin Temple Treasure House. That was the starting point for the famous Higashiyama Walking Course which leads to many of the beautiful temples and shrines of Takayama. A must see. From there we walked to the Hida Folk Village (quite a walk in the heat - yes, we had lots of sunshine). This is kind of an open-air museum of old houses moved to a small park.
Around 6.45 we went to Kyoya restaurant. Arjen had a local dark beer, very tasty (but quite expensive).
Afetr dinner we had to pack our daypack with the stuff we would take on the 6 day trek through the Japanese Alps. And of course that didn't all fit in the 45liter backpack, so we had to make a selection and then another selection within that selection until we took only the bare minimum (and perhaps not even that). Rather frustrated we went to bed...
September 26: Takayama - Kamikochi - Chogatake Lodge (2.658m / 8,720 ft.)
We left our big backpack behind at the hotel and took just our (very full) daypack. Around 7 we had the bus that took us to a bus station from where we took a different bus to Kamikochi 9the visitor center of the Japanese Alps). By 9 we were walking. The first part lead along the Asuza river into the forest. We saw some monkeys. Around 1500m / 4,921 ft. we started the ascent. It was a rather steep climb leading through different types of vegetation: trees, bushes and later on only some grass. The rain was very light at first and eventually disappeared as we arrived above the clouds. Around 4.30 we arrived at Chogatake Lodge (2.658m / 8,720 ft.). We hang out our coats in the drying room and prepared our sleeping place. Fortunately the lodge wasn't fully occupied so we wach could take up 2 spots. A one-off luxury...
Around 5.30 we had dinner. We hadn't expected it to be very much, but it was rather good. After dinner we chat with some people and went to bed before 9 (9pm means lights out).
This day we walked approximately 5h (a guestimate as the GPS apparently felt we were moving so slowly it should be counted as not moving...).
September 27: Chogatake Lodge (2.658m / 8,720 ft.) - Daitensjo Lodge (2.878m / ft.)
At 4.55am, the lights went on again, so we were awake just in time to view the sunrise from the window above our heads. We ha dbreakfast at 5.30. Breakfust looked a lot like dinner the night before: rice, miso soup, vegetables and fish. At 6.45 we started walking. It was a bit windy, but apart from that perfect weather. We had many great views of the mountain range all through the day. In the distance we could even spot Mount Fuji. After a lot of up and down (more up than down though) there was a steep climb to the Jonen-dake (2.857m / 9,373 ft.). We arrived there around 10.40. And then had to wait for a very long time for the last of the group to join us. Fortunately the weather was still fantastic and because theer was hardly any wind anymore, a wonderful spot to be. From there it was steeply down again to the Jyonen-goya Lodge (2.460m / 8,071 ft.). After again a long wait we climbed up again for a couple of hours and finally reached Daitensjo Lodge at 4.45pm. We had dinner at 6, a meal similar to the day before. It was slightly more busy here so we had matresses for 3 to share with 2. This lodge had a lights-out policy at 8pm...
This day we walked approximately 6h20m.
September 28: Daitensjo Lodge (2.878m / ft.) - Jarisawa Lodge (1.853m / 6,079 ft.)
We had been awake a couple of times during the night and heard it was raining. Around 5.45 we had breakfast and after making arrangements for 2 couples to leave the group as it was a bit too tough for 1 couple and the others felt they shouln't go down alone, we started walking by 7.30. The first half hour the weather wasn't too bad, but after that we had pooring rain again. Because of the rain there was hardly any visibilty. By 10.30 we were at a lodge where the group wuld split up. Because of the weather, the next day wouldn't be as planned for the group that would continue either (the stairs, ridges and ladders would be too slippery, making it way too dangerous), so we decided to take the different route as a group. It was a spectacularly steep path down, which had turned into a wild stream due to all the rain. Eventually we arrived at a lodge (Jarisawa Lodge, 1.853m / 6,079 ft.) at 2.20. Fortunately they had some room. The dry room though was completely full with very wet clothes and it was difficult to even find a spot to hang our clothes, let alone a place where they would be exposed to some dry and warm air... After a very good dinner we had some wine to celebrate our Dutch guide's birthday. After that we went to bed (just as the lights went out) at 8.30.
This day we didn't carry the GPS so we don't know exactly how long we'd been walking, but a guestimate is approximately 4h50m.
September 29: Jarisawa Lodge (1.853m / 6,079 ft.) - Karasawa Lodge (2.252m / 7,388 ft.)
Like the night before, we had been awake a couple of times during the night and heard it was raining. We had breakfast at 5.30. It was the same kind of breakfast as we had in the other lodges. We said goodbye to one couple that would take the low route out and then started walking towards the Yokoo Sanso lodge (1.620m / 5,315 ft.). After a break to eat some banana, we crossed the river and from there the path went up. We walked through the clods and it gradually became aalmost dry. We encoutered a lot of Japanese that were coming down from the mountain. Further up the autumn colours became very nice. By 11.25 we reached the Karasawa lodge (2.252m / 7,388 ft.).
The lodge was extremely busy so we had to sleep in a room that for European standard would at most host 2 rows of 3 people. Here is was 2 rows of 5 and we were lucky that one couple had taken the other route out and not joined us because then it would have been 2 rows of 6 people... It felt like sardines in a tin...
We spent the afternoon playing apuzzle game in the restaurant room, but were kicked at 2.30 and then went back to the sleeping room. We discussed places we'd been and still wanted to visit (like usual we got many new ideas for future holidays). Dinner was at 5pm. After dinner we went outside to enjoy the view on the mountains as the clouds had lifted and the sky was getting clear.
This day we walked approximately 3h10m.
September 30: Karasawa Lodge (2.252m / 7,388 ft.) - Hotakadake Lodge - Mt. Okuhotake dake (3.190m / 10,466 ft.) - Karasawa Lodge (2.252m / 7,388 ft.)
After very little sleep we got up at 4 as the lights already went on. We had breakfast and then slowly packed our daypack for the trip to the Okuhotake dake.
From the rooftop we had a wonderful view of the sunrise on the mountains behind the lodge. Seemed like the were on fire: bright orange and yellow. 1 person stayed behind and the rest of us started walking around 6.20. It was a very steep path up to the Okuhotake lodge that we reached 2 hours later. Arjen had eaten too little and didn't feel his legs were strong enough to safely take the ladders further up to the mountain top so after the first two he decided to go back to Okuhotake lodge. The rest reached the top (3.190m / 10,466 ft.) at 9.20.
After having enjoyed the view for some 20 minutes, they went back down. By 10.10 they joined Arjen. We had lunch (hardkecks brought from the Netherlands and some cream cheese and ansjovis to go with it) and then slowly went back to Karasawa lodge.
We arrived there around 12.25 and celebrate the achievemnt with a beer, sitting in the sun on the rooftop. After 2.30 the sun went behind the mountains so it got a bit cold and we went back inside. We packed our backpack for the next day and then went to dinner (again at 5). We took our time drinking tea after dinner so it was almost 6 when we went back to our sleeping room. Once outside, we noticed some lights coming down the same route we had taken down earlier that day. Not something we'd like to do in the dark!
We heard the weather forecast for the next day - our last day of walking - and of course it was... rain.
This day we walked approximately 4h30m.
October 1: Karasawa Lodge (2.252m / 7,388 ft.) - Kamikochi - Takayama - Kyoto
We got up at 4 when the lights went on. Our breakfast was at 5. Aroun 6.10 we started walking back towards the visitor cener. Fortunately the rain was not much more than a drizzle. There were a lot of people in front of us going down (rather slowly) but we were able to overtake many of them on the slippery path. By 7.55 we reached the river crossing next to the Yokoo Sanso hut. After a short break we went to the Tokusawa lodge where we arrived shortly after 9. From there we went the same route back as we had come up on the 1st day. By 11 we arrived back at the visitor center. The couple that had taken the low route out two days before had arrived there earlier that morning so our group was complete again.
We still had quite a journey ahead of us that day so at 11.30 we took the bus to Kamikochi. Around 1.30 we arrived in Takayama. We went by the train station to reserve seats for our trip to Masuda later that week and then to the hotel. We shopped for some groceries and retrieved our big backpacks. Aroun 3.30 we took the train to Nagoya. From there, shortly after 6, we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. where we arrived 6.45. From the station it was a couple of minutes walking to the Kotoya Kyoto Station Guest House. We had a very spacious room (1st time we had that in Japan).
We hang out our wet clothes and took a shower before we walked to a nearby grocery store for some sandwhiches and a beer. We had a look at the weatherforecast and learned it would be hot and humid the next week.
This day we walked approximately 3h45m.
This makes for a total of approximately 33h40m for this holiday!
After a decent night's sleep we slowly started the day. At 7.30 we gathered near the entrance and walked to the train station to have breakfast at Café du Monde. At the station we took a bus to Kinkaku-ji (Rokuon-ji) temple, a wondeful golden temple in a pond.
From there we walked to Ryoan-ji, a temple with a famous zen garden.
After that we took a bus to the Gion Corner and from there we walked to the Yasaka-Jinja shrine and the Maruyama Park. We encounter a lot of people in kimono.
In the park near Kakatei we had lunch. From there we walked through wonderful old streets to the Kyomizu temple. Again many small orange temples around the main wooden temple. Unfortunaely the latter was hidden behind scuffolding as it was being restored.
By train we went to the Fushimi-Inari Taisha temple. A thousand red tori's mark the path up the hill. Unfortunately we had arrived to late to complete the whole trail (it was getting dark), so at some point we turned around and walked back down. By train we went back to the Gion corner and walked around to find a restaurant. We ended up in Kome-Fuku Kyoto Kyamachi where we had delicious sashimi. After dinner we walked through the area again, but there was not much going on at that time in the evening. We walked back to the bus stop via the Yasaka Jinja shrine. At Kyoto Station we went to the 11th floor for the best views of the Kyoto tower and the city. The next day, we'd go to Hiroshima with part of the group. We had our rail pass, so we didn't have to buy tickets. That trip, together with the train trip to Kyoto the day before, already would cost more than just the rail pass.
On the way back to the hotel we bought breakfast for the next day. Back in the hotel we took a shower and went to bed - it was almost midnight, quite a difference compared to bed time of around 8.30-9 in the mountains.
October 3: Kyoto - Hiroshima - Miyajima - Kyoto
We had a light breakfast and left for the station around 7.15. Together with 3 others we took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima where we arrived around 10. From the train station we took the tram to the Atomic Bomb Dome. This is ground zero of the first bomb that hit Japan on August 6 1945. It exploded right above this building (the reason the shockwave didn't level it like most of the surroundings). We walked through the park, passing various memorials, to the museum.
The museum hosts a collection of artefacts, photo's and movie clips from that time. Very impressive and a clear argument why such a bomb should never be used again.
Via the National Peace Memorial Hall we walked back to the tram. From Hiroshima Station we took the train to Miyajima-Guchi. We got out too early at a station with a name that sounded too much like this, so we had to get back on the next train for the last bit. We bought lunch and then took the ferry (one of the types that our rail pass was also valid for, for the erst the price was the same as the other type) to Miyajima island. The big tori in the water in front of the island is world famous, but was less red than we had expected it to be. Unfortunately the tori was partly hidden behind scaffolding. The tori was in the water (at low tide it is not and you can walk up to it). After lunch we started walking across the island to Itsukujima-jinja, the main shrine and then Daisho-in. There we finally learned what's behind the small statues with their knitted hats: they are to commemorate children that have died.
We walked to the 5-story-pagoda and then back to the ferry. On the mainland we had drinks (Arjen a local beer) at one of the restaurants in the harbour. Just after 6 we took the train back to Hiroshima station where we had dinner and then took the Shinkansen back to Kyoto. We arrived at the hotel shortly after 10.
October 4: Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto
Around 8 we gathered near the entrance of the guest house and walked to the station to have breakfast gaian. This time at Caff&eactue; Veloce. Arjen had a peanut butter sandwhich, but that was so sweet, it wasn't very nice. Around 9.30 we took the train (the "rapid service") top Nara. We arrived there around 10.30 and from there each went their own way to explore the park.
We decided to take the route suggested by the lonely Planet which leads you along all points of interest. It started at the Yoshikien garden, which this time of year didn't hav many blooming plants anymore. We then went to the Nandaimon gate with impressive statues of guards. From there we went to the Todaji temple. It has a beautiful hall with a huge Buddha. We walked through the park (there are deer everywhere) and visited some more temples and then walked back to the station. After some sushi for lunch we took the train back to Kyoto. We took a shower and rested for a while. Around 6.30 we gathered to walk to the station again where we had our goodbye dinner at the Mimiu restaurant on the 11th floor. After that we watched the light show on the stairs of the station. We said goodbye to everyone as they would go back to the Netherlands the next day while we would go to Masuda. Back in the room we packed our luggage so we wouldn't have to do that the next day.
October 5: Kyoto - Shin-Osaka - Shin-Yamaguchi - Masuda
We had sushi for breakfast in our room. and were ready to go way too early. Eventually we went to the train station and waited there for our Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. There we switched trains for the Shinkansen to Shin-Yamaguchi. There we had almost an hour to spare, so we had lunch (bread with salmon, cheese and some sandwhiches). Around 1 our train to Masuda departed for the final stretch. This was a "limited express" train, the second slowest type of train - only a "local train" is slower. We were almost the only passengers. The conductor gave us some figures made out of paper - origami, a Japanese art form. Lovely!
Around 2.30 we arrived in Masuda. The hotel was next to the station. We were lucky: our room was already available, so we could drop off our luggage. We decided to walk to the beach (an hours walk) but as it started to rain almost immediately after we had departed, we decided to turn around.
We noticed a lot of Nijntje (Miffy) posters and flags, so we knew we were in the right spot. The reason we had extended our trip with two days in Masuda was to visit the Nijntje Art Parade. We had seen almost all of the 45 statues in the Netherlands and we wanted to see the 15 that were in Japan too.
We bought groceries for the next day. Apparently we bought something that entitled us to three lottery tickets. Patricia had one that was a prize winning ticket - the prize being a can of beer :-)
Around 6.30 we walked to the "Rotating Sushi" restaurant across the street. Here we found out that almost no-one speaks any English. We pointed at the menu to get some sashimi and that worked out fine.
We hadn't set an alarm clock as there was no need to rush. We had breakfast in our room (bread with slices of chees, plus some chorizo we had brought from the Netherlands and we had planned to eat during our trek. By 9.50 we headed for the Iwami Art Museum. We bought tickets for the Nijntje Art parade as well as the regular collection. When we entered the Art Parade part, we started taking pictures of the statues, but we quickly notified taht this was not allowed; a very big disappointment... Next to the statues, the collection of the Art Parade also included some of Dick Bruna's drawings and items from Nijntje's movie.
The rest of the Museum's collection turned out to be a few items in three small rooms, so we decided to go through the art parade one more time as otherwise we'd be finished very early in the day. Still it was only 11.30 when we returned to the hotel. This day the weather was nice so we decided to go to the beach. We walked there and as it didn't really offer a place to relax, we decided to walk along the beach. We had lunch at some point and then walked back. We went for some groceries again and again got some lottery tickets. This time Patricia won an ice cream. Back at the hotel we took a shower.
Around 7 we went for dinner. We decided to go to the same place, but this time for the rotating sushi. The advantage is that rotating sushi means that a lot of the food is on display so you can simple take the plates off the conveyor belt. Each type of plate has it's own price, so counting them will tell you how much you've spent. Plus we had the advantage of having eaten sushi back home quite often so we knew the names of some of the different species of fish. Of course we didn't pronounce them properly, but the chef was kind enough to educate us on that, making this dinner a fun as well as very tasty experience.
October 7: Masuda - Shin Yamaguchi - Shin Osaka - Osaka
We had breakfast, packed up and checked out around 8. At 8.40 we took the train to Shin-Yamaguchi. We had only a couple of minutes to switch trains, but as all trains run on time, that was al we needed. We took the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka and from there a local train to Osaka station. From there it was a 10 minute walk to Hotel Elsereine. Again we were lucky that our room was already available. We had sushi for lunch in our room and then went to go sightseeing. Our first stop though was the Hilton to buy tickets for the shuttle bus to the airport the next day. Next we wnet looking for souvenir shops. In the area of the station, there were none to be found. We then walked to the Nambla quarter (any one else thinking of a Southpark episode?). In one of the small shops we found what we were looking for. We had ice cream and then walked back to the hotel. Osaka is more of a business city; it doesn't have as many historicla sights as Kyoto.
Around 7 we went for dinner. There was a lot of choice in restaurants and we ended up at Sushidokoro Sharaku Osaka North Daiichi where we had a set menu. After dinner we walked through the area fr a while before we went back to the hotel. We packed our backpacks and went to bed.
We had to get up early. We had sushi for breakafst and then went to the Hilton. We were there shortly after 6.30 - way too early. After a long drive picking up other people throughout the city, we arrived at the aiport around 8.20. Around 10 we could board and then the long journey back home began. It was an 11 hour flight and we arrived around 2.30pm at Schiphol. We tried to stay up as long as we could and went to bed around 10.30 (to our bodies it was 7.30am on the next day already though).
For thos interested, the Google Earth .kmz file and the GPS TrackMaker .gtm file can be downloaded too: