JAPAN PART 3 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOM

There are many things in Japan that we’ll never forget. On the other hand you got used so easily to a lot of these new things. Fortunately people asked us what is so extraordinary about Japan and we realized that we had to stop to think about this. Japan is a country that is different from any other country in the world. There is so much to do and see, you’ll never get bored. And despite that we were ready  for a next stop after spending three and a half week in Japan, we can definitely recommend everybody to go there to see it for yourself. And about us, we definitely wanted to visit Japan again.    

The small walk around the ryokan

We spent the last part of our Japan trip in Osaka, but before we got there we had a special birthday stop in a ryokan. Tom turned 30 on the first of December and to celebrate this we booked this traditional Japanese hotel. We booked one with an onsen. An onsen is a bath with natural water from a hot spring. Early in the morning we left our guesthouse in Hiroshima and almost eight hours later we arrived at the ryokan. We were warmly welcomed by approximately 10 hosts with a cup of tea and an explanation about how to use the onsen. Before we got ourselves to the onsen we did a small walk in the area. After this walk it was time to experience a real Japanese onsen, something that you really have to experience when visiting Japan. After this gorgeous bath we had a traditional Japanese dinner, including kimono and floor seats in our own room. And of course a nice bottle of wine, because we had to celebrate something. After we finished the food we had to go out of our room for a few minutes. In these few minutes the hotel staff could prepare our bed after they cleared the table and seats. The next morning Tom was waked by Dani, or actually by singing family at the other end of the world. In Holland Tom’s Dad and his wife had invited the whole family for a birthday drink at their home. And as a surprise they arranged with Dani a video call. And that is how Tom got waked. The whole family singing for his birthday, a very nice surprise. After a lovely chaotic, there were at least 10 family members at the other end, but fun video call we had a traditional breakfast. And this traditional breakfast is so different from all the other food we ate for breakfast. And yes we both were once students and both of us had the Pizza from the night before as breakfast so we’re used to some different things. But this was just another level of different, and we’re still doubting or this was a positive different or not? Anyway the whole experience was just amazing and not one to forget soon.

Very nice and interesting food during our stay in the ryokan

Before we headed to Osaka we made a stop half way. One of the hosts in the hotel told us about a nice hike at Mt. Kongo not too far away from the hotel. So we put our backpacks in a station locker and took a bus to Mt. Kongo. After a twenty minutes we arrived at a very nice and peaceful nature reserve. The only hikers we saw were Japanese and although we did know the Japanese word for hello quite well, after this day we’ll never forget. Everybody smiled to us and greeted us and so did we.

The hike around Mt. Kongo

We chose to stay in Osaka and do some day trips from there to Kyoto and Nara. This way we hadn’t to travel with all our luggage and all sights were only 40 minutes away by train. When we arrived at our Airbnb and got both a flashback to our student life, we were not sure anymore whether or not we made the right decision. That we booked a room with a shared toilet and bathroom was something that we did know and what we had experienced in other places we visited as well. However, this was different, it was smelly, dirty and the pictures were so unrepresentative. Fortunately the room itself was not too bad, neither good, but anyway we tried to stay positive. Despite the quality of our accommodation we really enjoyed our stay in Osaka and to be a few nights in a row at the same place. In both cities Osaka and Kyoto we did the free walking tour and learned more about the cities. Osaka is called the food capital of Japan. And you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to find this out. In this city you can literally buy food on every street corner. And there are so many cues with people waiting to get a seat in a restaurant or eatery it’s just unbelievable. And instead of billboards they use huge but really huge signs like crabs, sushi or just a whole cow to promote their place. Osaka is really an oasis for people with an obsession for food like Dani. We saw mini squids on a stick, huge crab legs, octopus balls and the toxic puffer fish. And we got acquainted with restaurants where you could fish your own fish inside the restaurant and later eat the fish you caught. And there is so much more, too much to note all here.


Osaka street signs

Glico: the oldest billboard in Japan

Nara is small town approximately 45 minutes from Osaka by train. This town is world famous because of the sacred deer living there. Beside this it also has very beautiful temples and shrines however, the deer are the main attraction. We did a small hike along all the tourist sights saw uncountable deer and after two hours we took the train back. Because it was so freezing cold with very cold winds as well so we decided to search for warmer places. Besides our trip to Nara we went two days to Kyoto. Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan and as you can guess this means you can find loads of temples and shrines here. Actually two days is not enough to see everything in Kyoto but after a bit of research we knew what we wanted to visit. And of course our visit in Kyoto started with the free walking tour. What else? After this free walking tour we strolled a bit around and visited the neighborhood of Gion. On our second day we went to the bamboo forest and visited the Fushimi Inari shrine. On our second visit we became also part of a few school activities. First we got a very nice handmade flyer by 8 year old kids about Kyoto, all written in Japanese and later that day Tom got interviewed by a few students for their research. Ten minutes later a few other students saw also potential victims in us and wanted to interview us. But we didn’t want to bias the research so we honestly said that we already participated in this research. Despite we couldn’t see everything in Kyoto we definitely got a good impression of this city in two days and we enjoyed the two days.

There are so many deer in Nara



And then after three and a half weeks our Japan adventure was over. Specially the food and the thousands of ultra clean and advanced toilets we’re going to miss. But that’s not all, it’s so nice that you can walk into any coffee bar put your stuff on a table, including smartphones and other valuable belongings, and go to order a coffee. Tipping is something you never do in japan unless you wanted to have a waiter running after you to return you change. And one of the most exemplary things we saw was the seats of the train that will turn if the train reached its final destination and the train will start its trajectory in the other direction. Unfortunately we don’t have any film material of this but you have to trust us on this.


A few examples of interesting signs in Japan. And can somebody tell us what the last sign is trying to explain?

There are too many good things about Japan too note here, like the many signs to give instructions and the mentality of the Japanese people. Japan was really great, but now it’s time for some sun, Philippines here we come!

For more pictures click here.