JAPAN PART 2 – JAPANESE ALPS & HIROSHIMA

On our bus trip from Tokyo to Matsumoto we were treated with beautiful views. Small rivers and streams meandering along the road with clear blue waters, mountains with beautiful colors and nice snowy slopes. Typically places where you want to pull over for a nice shot. Hence, these are the moments that we miss the car the most, when you got confronted that you cannot decide yourself to stop but that you’re on a bus that brings you from A to B. So no chance to make beautiful pictures or to stop and stroll around in a random town. Fortunately Japan has a lot of charm so let’s forget about this little things.

Great street view of Takayama

From Tokyo we took the bus bound for Matsumoto after Matsumoto we continued first to Takayama and later Nagano. These three cities are situated in the Japanese Alps and in Takayama center it looks time stood still for a while. We stayed for one night in Matsumoto and had in mind to do a day trip to Kamikochi. Kamikochi is a not very well known place in the Alps which you can only reach by bus or taxi, private vehicles are prohibited. During the winter this area is very hard to reach, it’s surrounded by high mountains and a lot of snow falls here during winter. You already feel it coming, during our stay in Matsumoto we got informed that this area is closed since the 15th of November. Well prepared once again. The new plan was to take a bicycle and see Matsumoto castle. On very small Japanese bicycles we went to the castle and did some sightseeing.

Our bicycle tour in Matsumoto

The next day we took the bus to Takayama.Takayama has a beautiful old city center. We strolled a bit around in the old center, visited a market and tried some street food. There is so much different Japanese food to explore, it’s amazing. We tried these Japanese crackers which you can find in Holland in those bags with Japanese mix. But this time we didn’t combine it with a wine like at home, no we tried some Sake. This alcoholic beverage is mainly made out of rice and typical Japanese. Many of these Sake breweries in Takayama exist for over centuries, it’s therefore a must try. But that’s not everything you have to try in Takayama. If you visit Takayama you have to eat a piece of Hida Gyu beef. And that’s what we did too, converted to euros we payed approximately €4,50 for a very small piece of this exclusive meat. But we did more than eating. We made a walk through the city park and funny enough they kept warning us about bears. Fortunately we didn’t see them, but for sure they are around there, something you really don’t expect so closes to a village. And we had also one day with snow, these nice thick snow crystals were coming from the skies. Unfortunately the snow melted too fast to get a thick layer of snow. That would have been so picturesque. Despite there is not really a lots of sights in Takayama to go to, we would have loved to stay a bit longer, because the atmosphere there is fantastic.

The famous Japanese Rice crackers in the making

One of the many Sake breweries in Takayama

Dani enjoying her piece of Hida beef with her new friend

Be careful of the bears!!

Nagano was our next destination. For the long distance traveling we had chosen for the bus, this takes a bit more time but is way cheaper than the fancy built trains and since we had the time this was the most convenient option for us. Another salient detail is that in Japan everything is good from instant meals to star restaurant meals, toilets, supermarkets everything. No exception for public transport and in this case traveling by bus. The busses are good and despite there is no toilet onboard, you don’t have to worry about your toilet visits. The bus stops actually more than necessary, but if you’re in high need for a toilet your happy it does. When we arrived in Nagano we couldn’t directly check in. We decided to drop the bags at the hostel and wandered a bit around. The next day we would go to the snow monkey park. After a good night rest we waked up had a small breakfast and went to the bus that should take us to the snow monkey park. The region where the park is situated is the home of the macaque. In the park itself is a hot spring. The macaques really like to take a bath in this hot spring, especially when the temperatures drop there and snow falls. All these factors makes this place so unique and picturesque. Definitely worth visiting. When we were there, there wasn’t much snow but we enjoyed it anyway. And we were lucky because there were a lot macaques bathing, perfect for us to make pictures and study this extremely human looking animals. When we made thousands of pictures we decided to go back to Nagano. We walked to the station through some small Japanese villages and took the train back to Nagano. The following day would be a long day of traveling. We were heading to Hiroshima via Tokyo.




Too much choice to pick from, these fellas are so funny

Hiroshima is a city a bit off route situated. However, we both knew that we had to visit this city. Not because it’s beautiful, no, just because of the horror that took place in 1945. When the US dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima to end the war. The results of this bomb are still visible at a few places. Hiroshima was hit by an atom bomb on the 6th of August in 1945 at 8:10 am. This bomb was so powerful that almost the whole city was destroyed and in total approximately 240,000 people were killed immediately or later by the after effects of the bomb. To never forget this part of history they build a peace park with several memorials and a museum. The museum is definitely a must visit to get a thorough understanding of the whole horrible situation. And the subject is still a today’s topic, with all the countries in the world that held or develop these nuclear bombs. It is something that should be banished by all countries no matter what part in the world because this part of history should never repeat. After this impressive and intense part of Hiroshima it was time for something more casual. It was time for Okonomiyaki. This type of Japanese food originates from Hiroshima and is a kind of pancake shaped dish with noodles inside. In Hiroshima center there is a four story building with small eateries all dedicated to Okonomiyaki. At these places you sit in front of the teppanyaki (baking sheet) you order the type of Okonomiyaki you want and it will be freshly prepared in front of you. We really enjoyed this lovely Japanese food. After we finished the meal we made a long walk to Hiroshima castle and later the Shukeien Garden. In this garden the trees are illuminated when it gets dark and specially in this season it highlights the breathtaking colors of the leafs. Really a scenery from a fairy tale.

Hiroshima A-bomb Dome

Beautiful colors in the garden of Hiroshima castle


Sukkeien garden, really beautiful place to visit

On day two in Hiroshima we visited Miyajima island. This island is mostly known because of its floating shrine. With high tide the feet of the Shrine and Torii are under water. To get there we took an old streetcar, which is a tourist attraction itself, and the ferry. The weather was already bad for a few days in a row and that day it was at least dry. On this island you can also visit a mountain peak where you find a beautiful 360 view over the island and the sea. To reach the top you can either take a cable car or hike. We chose to hike, out of sporty reasons and better for the budget. Although the climb is quite steep it’s reasonably doable. By the time we reached the top the skies got clearer and we got our first sun rays in days. When we got back down we strolled a bit around between all souvenir shops and bought some food of course. We went to the sea front to watch the sunset, which is quite spectacular with the Torii in the foreground that slowly got her feet under water. And so ended our second and also last day of sightseeing in Hiroshima. We took the ferry and streetcar back to the hostel where we spent the night with some nice Romanian travelers. But we went early to bad because the alarm was set for 5 am next morning.

Torii belonging to the floating shrine

The floating shrine

The Torii during sunset

For more pictures click here.