Expat Travels: My Return to Japan

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Konnichiwa y'all

Happy Lunar New Year from the Far East! I spent my days off in the western region of Japan and made the most of it despite several hiccups.

Osaka served as my base for traveling to Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima. I purchased a JR West pass to get to every city quickly and cost effectively, as none of them are near one another.

I started my journey off in Nara. Nara is a quaint city in Kansai, and is filled with culture and nature. Nara was just a 40 minute trip from my Osaka base and definitely worth a visit.

You must love deer if you're visiting Nara.
They're literally ALL OVER the place, and they expect to be fed!

Bambi won't be bothered, unless you're coming off some snacks.

I actually understand how this deer looks like it feels :-/

Nara is home to the Todai-ji temple, which houses the Virocana Buddha, known in Japanese as "Daibutsu".   The Virocana Buddha is the largest bronze statue buddha in the world.

The Great Buddha Hall in Nara

Washing of the mouth and hands is a sign of respect before entering the temple

Light and leave an incense before entering the temple for good fortune

The Daibutsu of Todai-ji

Komoku-ten, one of the pair of guardians in the Daibutsu-den

Guardian for a Guardian. Splendor.

I briefly visited the renowned city of Kyoto on this trip. I've seen Kyoto in photos and was definitely intrigued by the area's own shrines and sites.

Arashiyama's Bamboo Grove


More crowds. Yay.

The Fushimi Inari-taisha temple in Kyoto was quite the sight despite the crowds.

Write down your desires, tie it to the gate and go forth optimistically.

There are thousands of gates at the shrine. The "torii" gates are actually very expensive gifts from donors.
This site was made more popular by the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha.

Perhaps it was the un-forecast, bitter cold and wind but I was extremely annoyed that I could not take in this place. The weather did not prevent the crowds [including me, obviously] from coming. I actually did want to do more than take photos but it's hard to find a spot to soak in the temple's surroundings. I can usually handle crowds, but this was unlike anything I expected for this time of year. Unfortunate. I ended up abandoning the itinerary, it happens.

On to Hiroshima, oh what an underrated beauty! I would have spent more time there had I known. You absolutely must visit if ever in the central region of Japan. Miyajima Island is a huge draw to the city but, as we know, there's lots of history in Hiroshima as well.

Traveled from Osaka to Hiroshima by Shinkansen.
What would have taken 5+ hours by car took 1.5 by bullet train!

Worth the trip and the cold.

Miyajima at low tide.

Truly a gorgeous port town!

Beauty reflects even in muddy waters

The Miyajima Itsukushima Shrine is usually surrounded by water, LOTS of water. The tides typically get low enough for humans to get close to the shrine after 3pm. If I'd gone in the morning, all of my photos would have been from the shore. We still had to wade through some puddles to experience "the gateway between humans and the spirit world" up close. It was worth it.

Plan on spending a few hours on Miyajima Island. It's about a 30 minute journey, including a short ferry ride, from the JR Hiroshima Station. The island offers shopping and eating, and relaxing with the deer.

"Here, my deer"
Never got used to them randomly roaming around, LOL.

Shopping on Miyajima

Sadly, Hiroshima is most known for being the first place on the planet where a nuclear bomb was used. The former military city was completely leveled by the atomic bomb back in 1945, killing thousands of civilians in the aftermath and even thereafter. While there are very few physical remnants of World War II left in present-day Hiroshima, what happened there is still very much present emotionally.

The A-Bomb Dome, as it's now referred to, is the only remaining structure from WWII.
It sits across the water from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park.
The area is very serene.

Remnants of war

A tale of two cities, personified. 

Hiroshima Hondori at night.
It's a lively atmosphere of shops, eateries, arcades and nightlife!

Osaka in general was a cool city as well. While I found it very difficult and often times frustrating to navigate, it was much more bustling than I anticipated.

Osaka Shinsekai at night

Views from the top

Buddha Billiken: God of "Things As They Ought To Be", in Shinsekai.

Tempura stop in Osaka Shinsekai

Sake Sake Sake!

I think I would enjoy this region much more in warmer months, and won't rule out a subsequent visit in Spring, especially to spend more time in Osaka. Central Japan is much more tranquil than the east [Tokyo]. All of the regions can easily be done on a JR pass and should not be missed. If time permits, I would add the city of Kobe to the itinerary.

Until next time, Japan.

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  1. What a lovely trip you had. Love the guardian of the temple. I also know why we did not visit Nara. I am terrified of animals, even sweet deer. I had a deer that took up residence under my patio when l lived in Hollywood and you should have seen the lengths l went through to get rid of it :-). We loved Fushimi-Inari too. I would love to go back to Japan. So many places left to visit.

    1. OMG I wasn't remotely ready. The photos don't even begin to depict how many there were.

  2. Beautiful, looking at your pictures I felt like I was taking a field trip with you. Such a lovely experience.

  3. Why did you go in the winter? This is on my travel bucket list. I can't imagine how cold it was!! I bet that bullet train was awesome sauce!!

    1. I live in Korea. The flight over was a good price for the Lunar New Year holiday break.

  4. Japan is def on the bucket list. This is so beautiful and it doesn't look like your day to day Westernized concept of a vacation. Thanks for this!

  5. Wonderful pictures. Hiroshima Hondori looks like so much fun and technology (lol) from your picture. The temples and the statues are gorgeous.

    1. Yes, lots of arcades, it was kind of awkward.

  6. I had no idea Japan had such beauty to share. The bamboo grove was picturesque and looks peaceful. What an opportunity to visit Hiroshima and see history.

  7. Beautiful sites to see in Japan. I'm amazed at the bullet train - that's crazy fast!

  8. OMGoodness!!!! I love these photos! I took Japanese in high school and always wanted to visit Japan!

  9. omg you saw and did so much my boyfriend want to visit japan, I'm a little scared

  10. Your pictures are absolutely stunning. I love to see my sisters traveling the world.

  11. Great recap of your visit to Japan! Ahh I am not fond of getting that close to deer lol, so I am not sure if I'd visit Nara, but you took beautiful pics of the temple. My husband's wish is to visit Japan for his 40th next year.

  12. Gorgeous pictures! It definitely looks like a place I'd like to visit!