I’ve always had a strong interest In Japan, the culture, the history, the food, literally everything!
So travelling there was at the very very top of my bucket list, and I can honestly say, the trip did not disappoint, I left Japan with a much stronger love for the place!
While working our very first ski season in Hemsedal, Norway, my girlfriend and I started to plan our trip, unfortunately we didn’t have as long there as we’d of liked there, so we had to plan as much as possible, before going off to work the summer season in Geiranger.
We decided to fly into Osaka, travel to Kyoto, then Nara and then back to Osaka for the last few days in the city.
After working an amazing first ski season we packed up our snowboards and headed back to the U.K. where we’d fly from to Amsterdam Schiphol and then on to Osaka.
After a long 23 hours of travelling without having time to recover from the long drive from Norway to the U.K. we’d finally touched down on the artificial island just off Osaka’s coast that was home to the airport, the excitement was unreal, we’d finally made it to Japan!
Upon arrival, tired and very jet lagged, we had to navigate to Kyoto through the efficient Japanese rail network, luckily it all went smoothly and we managed to get to our hotel without any hiccups, this was a big deal for me as it was my first time travelling to a country the other side of the globe, knowing it’s a completely different world and things work totally different to what I’m used to, I was completely out of my comfort zone.
Our first day in Kyoto was spent wondering the streets and visiting random shrines and temples that we passed along the way as we wanted to take it easy while we recovered from the jet lag, I was still in disbelieve that I’d finally travelled to japan, it felt like a dream, probably because I was so tired!
After a lovely first day we headed back to the hotel early to get an early night so we could start the next day early and really explore Kyoto!
The next day we got up and started walking early without any particular plans and ended up in Nakagyo-ku, a shopping district.
We browsed the weird and wonderful shops, and found some really random things, like cat cafe’s along the way. One thing we’d soon noticed was how cute everything was, the Japanese absolutely love cute things! We’d also noticed an abundance of food displays outside the restaurants, these were amazing and really life like! It really helped us decide what we’d want to eat, and the real dish would come out looking exactly the same, the attention to detail was impeccable.
Our third day was a day I’d been waiting for, for a long long time, we were visiting the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha, The head Shinto shrine for Kami Inari. The shrine spans over 4KM and trails up a mountain. The history dates back to 711, but the main shrine was built in 1499, seriously impressive stuff! We’d arrived there very early morning as we’d been warned by a friend that the shrine is always packed with people, with great success we’d arrived before the crowds and took a nice quiet walk up the shrine.
Kyoto was by far my favourite city, the contrast between the old temples, shrines and modern life was amazing.
We spent the next few days exploring the rest of the city, taking part in a traditional tea ceremony, and stopping off at nearly every temple/ shrine we passed.
On the last day we took a trip to the stunning Arashiyama Bamboo Grove early morning, then took the Sagano scenic railway that runs parallel to the Hozugawa River.
When we reached the end of the line in Tanba-Kameoka, we decided to go back down the river to Kyoto in a traditional Japanese boat.
The boat was controlled by 3 men, one steering with a long piece of bamboo, one rowing, and one at the back helping navigate and entertaining the passengers.
The cruise went 16Km back down the river that flowed through some stunning gorges.
Nara was the capital of Japan before Kyoto, back in the Nara period from 710 to 794 and has one of Japan’s oldest parks.
Established in 1880 and set over 1240 acres, Nara park is home to over 1200 wild sika deer. The deer are considered very sacred after being visited by Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto (god of thunder) one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine.
After WW2 the deer were no longer considered sacred, instead we’re classed as national treasures, and are protected by law.
After a nice 3 days in Nara visiting the deer and local shrines and temples we moved onto our final destination.
Back to the city!
I’m not normally a huge fan of cities, I prefer the peace and quiet in natural surroundings, the mountains, the countryside etc, however… Osaka was an acceptation, and I grew to love it almost instantly.
We spent our last few days walking around Osaka aimlessly, trying different foods, browsing the fish markets and local site seeing.
Osaka was the real hustle and bustle of Japan, from early morning right through the night, the place was lit up everywhere, crowds flooded the main streets, restaurants packed full of hungry Japanese businessmen slurping delicious noodles, it was the real deal!
My most memorable meal of the trip was A5 Kobe Donburi (rice bowl) my god was it delicious, beautifully cooked, tender, melt in your mouth Wagyu steak draped over rice and vegetables. I’ve wanted to try Wagyu beef ever since I’d heard about it years ago, and it was well worth the wait, expensive but highly recommended for the experience!
Until next time japan, sayonara <3