Sunday, 10 August 2014

Leaving Japan

I am currently writing this post from Hoi an, Vietnam. I have had little access to an actual computer but have saved up some thoughts for this blog...

So Shirakawa go was where I left my last post. It was pretty as expected though one and a half hours there was more than sufficient. The main thing to do there is walk around taking photos as the old houses and rice fields are very photogenic. Ironically the bus tour was cheaper than the public bus so we took that, though it still cost something in the vicinity of fifteen pounds for a return trip, far more expensive than most public transport in Japan. It was quite touristy but worth a visit, being a beautiful world heritage site.


We returned to Takayama in time for lunch, we cycled to a traditional Japanese restaurant, Heianraku, which had an entire vegetarian menu. I ordered a pumpkin soup followed by tofu teriyaki and rice. We also got served a little starter which was very tasty. We cycled around town a bit and took in the beautifully preserved old town centre before heading back to the hotel. Later that evening we experienced our first (and sadly only) sushi train restaurant. Somehow we ended up paying the equivalent of 4.50 pounds for 10 pieces of sushi, edamame beans, fries, unlimited matcha tea and cake. To order and to receive your food minimal human contact was required as everything was ordered via the touch screen menu and delivered on the conveyor belt.

Traditional lunch at Heianraku

Free appetizers 


Sushi train

Untouched and dreaded natto

We left Takayama quite early the next day in order to go to Minakami. What was supposed to be a 4 hour journey became a 10 hour journey due to delays, and we arrived at the Canyons centre pretty late. It was located in a very remote area by the side of the river, but the facilities in the centre were very good. We stayed in a dorm room which we had to ourselves, there was a kitchen and a bar downstairs. The next morning we got into wetsuits, put on life jackets and helmets and headed to Fox canyon after breakfast. This was my first canyoning experience but hopefully won't be my last... We slid down a 20m waterfall, jumped into the canyon and slid down some waterfalls backwards.

After the canyoning experience and our self-made lunch (the now oh-so-familiar tofu and stir fried noodles and vegetables) we headed to an onsen with a Japanese couple who offered to take us. Like most onsens it was gender separated, for 600 yen (about 3 pounds) you could enter the onsen for as much time as desired. Most Japanese people tended to leave after 10-20 minutes but I stayed a little longer. What would have been a 2-3 hour train ride somehow became a 4-5 hour car journey as the couple drove us to Yokohama, from which we got the shinkansen to Tokyo.

The following day was our last full day in Japan. We got up early to head to Tokyo Disneyland for something a little different... Unlike other disneylands I have been too (sadly, three others), Tokyo Disneyland doesn't have any thrill rides. Apparently the more thrilling rides are in Disney Sea. Tokyo Disneyland is more aimed at families and is far smaller than its American and European counterparts. We did however have a fun day amongst the crowds by using efficiently the fast pass and getting to go on most rides, the best of which were definitely Splash mountain and Pirates of the Carribean. Vegetarians beware-you will be eating expensive junk food all day if you don't bring a picnic. I ate excessive amounts of popcorn, one very expensive churro, bubble tea and a tiny portion of fries. In the evening all was remedied by the discovery of an incredible vegan ramen restaurant at Tokyo station.

The only photo in Tokyo Disneyland... Too busy having fun

Incredible vegan ramen at Tokyo Station

That night we stayed at Maki's flat again. The next morning we had breakfast with a friend of hers who is a journalist and who asked me some questions about the Scottish referendum. He is interested in the results as it may influence the independence of Okinawa from Japan. We took a four hour flight to Manila, where we were surprised to be put straight into an international transit lounge, where we had to stay all night. When I told the guards that I was hungry they sent someone to get me food. Being veggie meant I was given two mangos, two cakes and some juice... Apparently veggies aren't entitled to rice.

Strange night in Manila airport

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