Places and buildings, Japan

Some buildings and places we visited in Japan, Nov-Dec 2015

Walking tour of West Shinjuku, Tokyo

Shinjuku-Mode Gakuen Cocoon-skyscrapper

The Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower in Shinjuku

Tokyo-ViewFromShinjuuku Sumitomo Building 45th

View from the observation tower on the 45th floor of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Tower. Entrance is free.

Tokyo-ViewInside Sumitomo Building

Inside view of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Tower

Tokyo-WorldLargestPendulumClock - Shinjuku NS Building

World’s largest pendulum clock in Shinjuku NS Tower. We visited the skywalk bridge and found to our pleasant surprise that there were many reasonably priced eateries there for such an expensive looking place.

 

Miyajima, one of top 3 official scenic spots of Japan

MiyajimaShrine-lowtide

The famed Itsukushima shrine in Miyajima at low tide with a multitude of visitors on a public holiday.

JapaneseWithCoatsInMiyajimaShrine

No obstacles can stop these business professionals from visiting the shrine, not even having to carry luggages over the sand and to brave the huge crowd on a public holiday.

 

ColoursOfAutumn-Stream-Miyajima

Flowing stream and autumn leaves

Obama-GreenTeaIceCream

A shop sign in Miyajima. Someone should ask President Obama if he likes green tea ice cream. We did anyway 🙂 President Obama did visit Tokyo, Japan in April 2014 and perhaps green tea ice-cream was served?

Naritansan Shinshoji Temple and Garden, Narita Town

Narita-TempleTower

An old Pagoda

Narita-TempleRoof

A closer look at the pointed roof of a temple building

Yeejj-shadow-selfie2.jpg

Shadow selfie – lots of photos to take in this beautiful temple and garden!

 

More Temples, Shrines and Castles

Kyoto

Himeji

 

Towers, towers everywhere, in cities and in towns

Osaka-Shinsekai.jpg

Cycling past the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka’s Shinseikai area, originally builit in 1912 supposedly inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris and rebuilt after the war . Weather was nasty during our stay in Osaka, with intermittent rains

Hakodate-GoryokakuTower

Goryokaku Tower, Hakodate

Hakodate-GoryokakuParkSurrounding.jpg

Zoomed-in view of Goryokaku Tower and its neighbourhood from Mount Hakodate in late afternoon

Kyoto-Tower.jpg

Kyoto Tower on a gloomy and rainy day

Sendai-towers-morning.jpg

View of Sendai from hotel room on 18th floor, with a building towering over its neighbourhood.

sendai-night.jpg

Sleepless in Sendai. Night scene from hotel room, facing the tower

Beppu-tower.JPG

The 100m tall Beppu Tower in the background on a late afternoon

 

Matsushima, another  of the three most scenic places in Japan

Matsushima-panorama1

“Matsu” means pine or 松. You will find lots of pine trees here, little islands, clear blue waters, beautiful sky and lots of boats. Well worth the slow 40 minutes train ride from Sendai.

Matsushima-bridge2

The 252m-long bridge to Fukuura island

MatsushimaShore

YeeJJ-walking-Matsushima

Perfect weather for a walking tour of the bay of Matsushima

 

Hakodate, viewed from Mount Hakodate from 330pm till 5pm

 

The 8 hotspring “hells’ of Beppu

and some the animals and plants in the “hells”

 

Hiroshima Atomic Peace Memorial Park

 

Toya – Nishiyama and the destruction caused by Mount Usu’s eruptions

and the cold, cold walk after last night’s snow

 

Lake Toya, where G8 leaders met in 2008

Colours of autumn, Japan

Late autumn in Japan, 2015

ColoursOfAutumn-Narita2

Garden in Naritan-san Temple, Narita city

ColoursOfAutumn-Narita

Shades of colours – Garden in Narita-san Temple

RedTree-Kyoto

Red tree in Nijo castle, Kyoto

AutumnLeaves-Miyajima

Matsushima mid morning sun

Multi-colouredLeaves-inHimeji

Multi-coloured tree in the morning, Himeji castle

Himeji-Castle-Autumn

Himeji castle, late afternoon

Glowing-volcano-island

A glowing Nakajima island in Lake Toya in the evening. The orange glow on the island is from the sun breaking through holes in the cloud

Beppu-Hell-Colourfultrees

Colourful hell – at one of the 8 hotspring “Hells” of Beppu

HiroshimaAtomicDome

Evening, Hiroshima Atomic Dome

Hiroshima-RiverFront.jpg

Hiroshima waterfront evening

Hakodate-Mountain2

View from Mount Hakodate in late afternoon

Hakodate-OldPublicHall

Night at Hakodate old public hall

Faith-KyotoTrees2

Lady in blue on multi-coloured fallen leaves, Kyoto

SheddedTree-Narita

I’ll be back. An almost bare tree in Narita town readying itself for winter. See you in spring.

 

Christmas Colours, Hakodate on 28 Nov 2015, the night of the light up

 

Christmas lights in Beppu

People of Japan

Here are some photographs with people as the main theme from my recent Nov-Dec 2015 travel to Japan.

Religion

JapaneseWithCoatsInMiyajimaShrine

Three business professionals with luggages in the sand at low tide at Miyajima Itsukushima Shrine on a public holiday. The island was jammed packed with people everywhere. We found out later that it was a long weekend.

Devotees-zoom-burner2

Devotees zooming in on the incense burner at the centre of the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. People were literally fanning the fumes into their nose, presumably to cleanse themselves or to take in the blessings.

miyajima-queuingblessings.jpg

Queuing for blessings in Miyajima

Trades

PreparingLiveEels-Filming

A chef in Narita’s Omote Sando Street  masterfully prepares a live eel while camera crew films him in action. The street has many restaurants serving eel meals and they proudly put their chefs in front for passer-bys to see how they skilfully prepares the food. We tried the meal at a restaurant that had a reasonably priced set lunch. Oishi-desu!

Himeji-NoodlesHouseFamily

A noodle shop in Himeji with very high tripadvisor’s rating. We found out why after trying it ourselves. Inexpensive and prepared right before your eyes from raw flour.

OldManSellingFood-Miyajima

An elderly street vendor at Miyajima preparing our BBQ squid snack. Many stalls were run by elderly folks.

Miyajima-agingSamurai

A rather elderly man hired to dress as a Samurai warrior in Miyajima. This was by a company providing costumes for rent. From Himeji castle to Miyajima, we noticed that a number of those dressed in these traditional costumes were the senior workers.

PerformingMonkey-Miyajima

Not a person, but a performing monkey in Miyajima working for a busker.

JapaneseWorkersRoad

A group of all Japanese workers working on the pavements. Despite an ageing population and expensive labour costs, Japan relies almost entirely on locals for its workforce. We did find a Cambodian adult student working in a supermarket and two China adult students working at a restaurant. They all speak Japanese.

Narita-worker-trims-tree

Narita-worker-trims-tree2

The reason why plants are so nicely manicured in Japan. Workers carefully trimming the trees at mid day.

 

Life

Wedding-Himeji-Couple

Wedding-Himeji-InLaws

Chanced upon this couple whom I think were getting married. They were waiting to enter  a shrine next to Himeji castle while two lines of people waited inside next to the red carpet. I presume they were the immediate families of the couple. They greeted and bowed to one another as the whole process was captured on video.

Aomori-Market-oldlady.jpg

An old lady with walking aid inched her way slowly through the market in Aomori as customers zipped around the centre. Japan has been dealing with issues of an ageing population.

Miyajima-LongQueue

Singaporeans aren’t the only ones who love queuing. A long queue for sweet potato ice-cream in Miyajima. We paid in front thinking that was the queue for the ice-cream. It turned out that we bought only the tokens for the ice-cream and had to wait another 30 minutes to get the ice-cream. The queue snake all the way into the shop and there were several turns inside! We queued many times during our trip, get to trains, for rides in Disney, for food, and many more! Yes, we were told by local that they do queue overnight for launches of highly sought after products too.

WearyTraveller-HakodateGoryokakuTower

Yes, travel can be exhausting. A weary traveller totally knocked out at a bench inside Goryokaku Tower, Hakodate. He seemed to be from a Taiwanese tour group, some of whom were watching a performance at the hall.

 

 

Rolling through the land of the rising sun

It has been a long while since I got to travel for 15 days at a stretch. We decided to get a JR Rail Pass and do a DIY getaway. Our travel took us from Tokyo to Beppu in the south (Kyushu island), north to Hakodate and then back to Narita for the flight back. We had stopovers in Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka, Kyoto, Kokura, Sendai, Matsushima, Aomori and Toya, some of which were just day trips from a nearby town.

Yeejj-cycling-Himeji

Cycling from our AirBnB homestay in Himeji to the station. We had loaned out free bicycles from the Tourism office next to the station and decided to cycle with our luggages from our stay near the castle to the station before returning the bikes. When we first arrived, we had to walk nearly 40 minutes to find this house (Google map said 20 minutes walk only!). I thought that bicycling with our roller luggages for our return may be better. Turned out to be challenging as we had to cycle mostly on pavements and there were curbs and lots of bumps. We managed eventually. Do look for the free bicycles at the Tourism office (office hours only, first come first serve). Without luggages, Himeji is a nice place for cycling.

It was quite an experience travelling some 4,500 km without any private transport or taxi. The trip was done entirely by trains, trams, buses, boats, occasional cycling and lots of walking with our roller luggages. We experienced both peak and off peak travels, including the famed Tokyo peak hour trains. For some cities, we bought the day passes for either trams or buses or subways, depending on our travel plans if it works out to be cheaper than the rather expensive individual rides.

Pork buns at Kokura

Looking for food near Kokura station on the northern tip of Kyushu island while waiting for the connecting train to Beppu. We found this eatery from Tripadvisor but discovered that it was actually a takeaway kiosk and not a sit down dining. We tried it anyway. Juicy buns but not the food we were yearning for after a long ride from Osaka.

When in Japan, do as the Japanese do. We often bought along our pre-packed food and start our picnic on the long Shinkansen (bullet train) rides the moment we got to our seats. The system is so efficient that we can stopover at an intermediary city just to catch a meal at a restaurant near the station that has great online reviews and then catch another train after our meal, carefully timing our stops and monitoring the schedules.

HokkaidoTrainSchedule

A train schedule for Hokkaido. Trains are relatively infrequent here and you will need to plan carefully to minimise waiting times or to avoid missing the last train back!

A bus schedule in Beppu, a quiet town in the southern island of Kyushu

A bus schedule in Beppu, a quiet town in the southern island of Kyushu. We usually snap pictures of schedules at the stations so that we can plan our return after visiting an attraction.

The transport system was amazingly efficient, even on networks that are decades old. We relied on the published timetables. Train were reliable to the exact minute arriving and departing at the various stations we were at. The punctuality was critical for planning especially in the more remote parts of Japan where transport services were often infrequent. We wanted to minimise waiting time and had to match the timetables of trains and bus / tram services.

My most frequently used words for the trip? “Sumimasen, xxxx wa doko desu ka?” (or “Excuse me, where is xxxx?” as we stop strangers and transport officials and ask for directions getting around to new hotels, to restaurants that were highly rated on travel sites and to the many places of attractions. Almost all whom we had asked tried their best to be helpful, giving us instructions which we often cannot quite fully comprehend due to our very limited range of Japanese vocabulary. However with sign language, we can roughly figure out and get near enough to our destination to ask another random stranger if we need to again. Some were even so helpful that they walked part of the way with us. A young lady even used her mobile app to translate her instructions into English for us!

Beppu-bus depot

Stopping at the office of a bus company in Beppu to explore transport options. We eventually took the day pass from another bus operator which had better connections to the places of attractions we wanted to visit. Enquiring at bus stations, train stations and Tourism offices was something we did a lot at every new town to make sure that we get the transport options right to start off the visit to the town.

I must say Japan is a relatively safe place as we navigated sometimes early in the morning to sometimes late at night, in both busy and quieter areas feeling completely safe all the time. Bicycles are commonly used by Japanese but not always safe as roads can be busy and there are no bicycle lanes. Bicycles often share the pedestrian walkways but I notice that cyclists are careful to coexist safely with pedestrians.

Have travel passes, will travel!

Sharon-PointingDirection

Sumimasen, xxx wa doko desu ka?