A year full of discoveries 2018

So its another year with plenty of trips being fulfilled. I have managed to tick off my hit-list it has been wonderful with plenty to write about. Last year (2017) I missed out a trip to Helsinki and Tallinn with the winter proving too expensive for me to finish the year off, however 2018 fulfilled this plan.

Below are just some of the places ive managed to visit, click on them to read some of my write-ups. Next year I already have plans to go to Cambodia, Turkey and Chamonix in France. Other places that are a possibility are Morocco, USA and a return to South America.

South American Trip

Sao Paulo, Mar 18First trip of the year and entering South America for the first time on a Brazil and Peru trip. The city was safer than I thought I used public transport and walked everywhere.
Lima, Mar 18 The Peruvian capital was a pleasure to visit, its museums were different to any other in the world.
Cusco, Mar 18 The city is beautiful, old churches and Incan ruins was out of this world. Be very careful when visiting this place as the high altitudes do affect people in different ways.
Ollantaytambo, Mar 18 One of the smallest but most beautiful places I have stayed. Me and my brother stayed next to a river with some of the best views of the surrounding river.
Aguas Calientes, Mar 18 The main stage for the world famed Machu Picchu, one of the best places I have been, truly majestic.
Rio De Janiero, Mar 18 As long as you’re extra careful Rio is a safe place to be, maybe a few money hustle form a few taxi drivers or vendors but other than those it is safe. Its scenery and beaches are some of the best in the world.

Wales Trip

Cardiff, Apr 18 A short weekend in the welsh capital, a place full of investment in order to establish it as a shopping haven.

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Philippines & Japan Trip

Manila, Jun 18 Its that time again where once a year I visit Philippines. A base to srelax before we head off to Japan.
Osaka, Jun 18 Our entry point in Japan, smaller than Tokyo but a metropolis nonetheless.
Kyoto, Jun 18 Beautifully preserved temples and religious places. Home of the world famed Geisha entertainers and the most cultural traditions preserved.
Tokyo, Jun 18 Last city visited in Japan, a beautiful busy metropolis. Very crowded and bustling 24 hours a day. Bright lights, most modern technology and cuisine were a huge plus for this city.

England Trip

Devon, Sep 18 A short weekend trip to the English country side, new attractions has been built in Ilfracombe attracted more tourists.

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Finland & Estonia Trip

Helsinki, Dec 18 The Finnish capital had little to offer in attractions however the beauty of the capital is its people, arts and history.
Rovaniemi, Dec 18 A true winter wonderland, the coldest place ive visited and the most magical place for families.
Tallinn, Dec 18 (post coming soon) Outstanding pagan churches, Medieval Castles and modern festive market. Spookiest place ive ever been to with many stories of haunted past on many building in the old town.

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A Quick Tour of Japan

This was my first trip to one of the richest and most powerful country in Asia, one which has rich history and best preserved tradition. I expected a very busy working country and also the most technologically advanced. My trip consisted of three of Japans most notable cities or prefectures (as its known) in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. I only had a total of 6 days and took the local trains to travel around except for a flight to Tokyo. I saw the most modern side of Japan but also its magical history and culture all whilst experiencing Japans world famous dishes.

Please click on the cities below to see how my journey went.

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First Stop Osaka

First part and entry point of my Japan trip was Osaka, starting with a busy airport and a confusing transport to our hotel. City looked industrial with many modern amusements.

Next Stop Kyoto

 A tiring start to the Kyoto experience, as we used a very busy commuter train to travel from Osaka. Although it rained on our Kyoto visit, the city definitely had character.

The Finale in Tokyo

The last city on my Japan trip, a bustling mega city.

 

 

 

Tokyo

Type : City
Best Date : 
Sep-Nov, Mar-May
Expense :
Expensive
Things to do : Sightseeing, Dining, Shopping, kart tours, ect
Points of Interest: Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Imperial Palace, Senso-Ji, Ueno Park, Ginza District, ect
The Good: Friendly and respectful people
The Bad: Very complex and busy public transport, Expensive

Brief

Tokyo (formerly known as Edo) is the capital and the largest city of Japan. However the city or prefecture was not always the country’s capital, as this always moved around depending on where Japan’s emperors wanted them. Furthermore greater Tokyo is said to be the most populated city (according to worldatlas) and known to be an alpha world city the largest modern metropolis in the world.

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The Place

Tokyo was the third and last city I visited during my tour of Japan. My expectations before I visited was a bustling metropolis full of the most modern technologies and infrastructure. Researching before my travels I found the city to be very reputable, which has more acclaimed restaurants than anywhere in the world, even more than Paris. Furthermore it is said to be one of the most safest capitals in the world with the lowest crime rates  than any around the world especially against tourists.

Firstly one of the must do activity in Tokyo is shop, as the city known as the best tax free shopping around the world. Ginza is an upmarket district in central Tokyo which has the most famous brands such as Gucci, Armani, Chanel and many alike. Furthermore many nightclubs, hotels, cafes and restaurants are also around here.

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Another shopping area in Tokyo that centre around the younger audience is Harajuku and Aoyama. This is a small narrow street bustling with affordable garments, accessories, toys and adventurous deserts , souvenirs are also found here and I believe the best place to buy them.

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Shinjuku is also another place for shopping, and centred around the middle working class community. Here there are the  more affordable brands such as Uniqlo, Lumine, Muji and others alike. 20180601_013022

However probably one of the most famous shopping district around the world, due to its bustling atmosphere is Shibuya. Most notable for the ‘Shibuya Crossing’ which has featured in many movies such as ‘Lost in translation’, ‘Fast and the furious’ and ‘Resident Evil’. The crossing is said to be the busiest intersection worldwide and is beautiful moreover at night when all the lights make for a great picture phot opportunity. Restaurants fill the streets in this area and there are a lot more amusements such as arcades, karaoke and clubs.

Apart from shopping there are also various attractions you could visit in Tokyo, its newest attraction which opened in 2012 is the ‘Tokyo Sky Tree’, this is a broadcast centre which is fast becoming the city’s cover attraction. Including restaurants and a observation deck this building is inspired by traditional Japanese architecture and is a great place to go if you are looking to see the city from a different view.

A much older point of interest in Tokyo is the ‘Meji Shrine’ which is not too far from the world famous ‘Shibuya’. This shrine is located in a calm tranquil area in the middle of the beautiful ‘Yoyogi  park’, which is again a sight to see in the cherry blossom season. Completed in 1920 the shrine which is dedicated to the Emperor ‘Meji’ and Empress ‘Shoken’ is surrounded by ‘Meji Shingu’s Forest’ which is entered through 2 large ‘Torii Gates’ one in the northside and the other southside. Pass these gates there is still a serene 10 minute walk to the shrines complex and upon arriving there is plenty exhibitions such as banzai trees, artwork, rituals and many others. The complex itself had various traditional architecture which is an excellent place for photographer type tourists and is a definite must whilst visiting Tokyo. There is a lot to see in the vicinity of the forest and you may stumble upon the ‘Kiyomasa Wells’ and the ‘Sake Barrels‘. Overall I believe that this was the best place to visit in Tokyo.

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‘Tsukiji Hongwanji’ is an operating Buddhist temple with free admission for tourists. It is a landmark for the Tsukuji area. Built on 1657 this temple has had huge historic significance. For me it was just a simple touch and go visit, so I am unable to give more information.

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Next to the temple is ‘Tsukiji Fish market’ a haven for fish or sushi lovers, a place where wholesale fish occurs, viewers are able to observe tuna auctions. Moreover there are plenty sushi restaurants where you are able dine and also learn the trade. Other produce are also sold here so for any food lovers this market is worth visiting.

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Lastly the ‘Imperial Palace’ which is the current residence of Japans Imperial family. It is actually the location of where Edo castle used to be. An interesting fact was that the palace was destroyed during the world war but then rebuilt in the same way afterwards. Similar to that of Osaka castle the imperial palace is bordered by huge stone walls and bridges which are appealing but does get in the way of a good picture. Take note no visitors are allowed inside the complex nor the buildings, however guided tours are available for the palace grounds.

Other places to visit are the ‘Senso-Ji Temple’, ‘Mount Fuji’ and various other museums and parks but I didn’t have time to visit them so I wont write about them.

Conclusion

All in all Tokyo was an interesting metropolis, it was definitely the busiest place ive been, a working city just like London. However unlike Kyoto and its magnificent shrines, in my opinion Tokyo’s main appeal for tourism is its shopping and dining as it doesn’t have many historic buildings. In my opinion a 3 or 4 days visit is enough in the city, stay very close to central of Japan and most places should be walking distance.

Back to my Japan Trip
Reference:

According to worldatlas.com  (Population)
https://www.factinate.com/places/30-interesting-facts-tokyo/
http://www.globalblue.com/destinations/japan/tokyo/top-ten-most-interesting-facts-on-tokyo

Kyoto

Type : City, Provincial
Best Date : Feb-May
Expense : Expensive
Things to do : Sightseeing, religious prayers, dining, shopping, dress up in kimono, ect
Points of Interest: Nijo Castle, Fushimi-Inari, Kiyomizu-Dera, Gion, Kyoto Impreial Castle, Nishi Hogan-Ji, ect
The Good: Best preserved Japanese culture
The Bad: Generally expensive

Brief

Kyoto is another of Japans former capitals. Rich and famous for is various Buddhist temples, shrines, gardens, imperial palaces and wooden houses. The Prefecture or city is said to be the historical and cultural centre of the country with its traditional society, dining and architecture still experienced today. The kaiseki dining and the female entertainers known as geishas are found within this city.

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The Place

Getting a train from Osaka to Kyoto (S rapid train) within 30minutes was amazing to say the least, even though it was very busy and crowded. I was expecting to get out of a very rural small station but was surprised to arrive to a large station just like Osaka central. Walking out of the station I was starting to get a vibe that Kyoto was anything but provincial but another metropolis.

I arrived in Kyoto in the evening and planned to check-in and head straight out to visit what I could. The first building you see once stepping out of the main entrance of the station is ‘Kyoto Tower’ which is an observation tower overlooking the city, I didn’t enter the building but ive heard its a sight to see. After we planned a trip to a place called Shijo Dori (Shijo Street) to have something to eat and see what the nightlife is like as it was also the area for their clubs and bars. Walking around the streets there were plenty of shops some more traditional than others. Arcades were also a big thing around these streets and can get very busy with local children, some even still in their school uniform.

The next morning we went to ‘Fushimi Inari-Taisha’ it rained but this gave our experience a little more character. Dating back to year 794 when Kyoto was capital, this shrine is one of the most important which is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, Inari. The iconic shrine is famous for having over a thousand orange vermilion torii gates which routes up mount Inari and into the wooden forest. The experience was incredible, the whole visit took about 3-4 hours in total trekking up and down the shrine. There were plenty of stops and different shrines to visit. I saw lots of fox statues and didn’t know what they were for till I found out that foxes are seen to be the messenger for the God Inari. The top of the mountain (shrine) was a bit of an anti climax (in my opinion) as there was nothing different than the various shrines that you pass along the way.

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After hiking for almost 3-4 hours, we went back to Shijo street then got something to eat in ‘ Nishiki market’ which is known to have the best traditional food in the city.

On that same day we also visited the ‘Kiyomizu- Dera’ which is a one of Kyoto’s notable attractions. ‘ Kiyomizu Dera’ is a huge Buddhist temple which is significant to the city and named a UNESCO world heritage site. When I visited the main building was being refurbished and had plenty of scaffolding and a cover, so it wasn’t as picturesque as it would normally be. Nonetheless the Kiyomizu-Dera is one of Kyoto’s main attractions and must be visited, even with all the construction the place was still very beautiful and scenic.

‘Gion’ is also an excellent place to visit especially in ‘ Hanamikoji Dori’ the street famous for the Geisha tradition. Filled with long-established wooden buildings, this area is also famous for its traditional dining and hospitality. The walk is only about 10 minutes from one end to the other and the Geishas are rarely seen, there are very strict rules in the street which include no touching of the geishas, selfie sticks, littering and others alike. Take note although dining here is a must, it is very expensive.

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Nishi-Hogan-Ji is another place that should be visited as it is the largest school for a particular type of Buddhism. Here you will find beautiful large traditional Japanese architecture.

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One place that is not really advertised for tourist to visit is actually an observation point above Kyoto station. Here there are views of Kyoto but the most observed are its stairs with LED lights acting like one huge screen where short light shows happen. I don’t know a special name for this place but yeah, the light stairs!

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Conclusion

Kyoto was the best place I went to in for Japanese culture and history. I was expecting a provincial rural atmosphere but was surprised that the whole city looked like a miniature Osaka and Tokyo with many lit up and technological areas such as ‘Gion’. Although it rained when I was there, this only just gave the city more character. Tourists rent Kimonos and Geisha outfits whilst around the city. This was interesting as this is not done in any other place around the world with their local traditional outfits. I did however under estimate the time I needed in the city, so there were plenty more places I haven’t visited.

Back to my Japan Trip
Reference:

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3915.html

Photo:

www.circumnavacation.com (Kyoto station light show)
663highland (Nishi Hogan Ji)

Osaka

Type : City
Best Date : 
Don’t Know
Expense :
Expensive
Things to do : Eat, Theme Parks,
Points of Interest: Osaka castle, Universal Studio, Dotonbori, Osaka Aquarium, Umeda Sky Building
The Good: Excellent food, Very nice people
The Bad: Most confusing train system (Japan in general), Expensive

Brief

Osaka (formerly known as Naniwa) was the first known capital of Japan. Today it is the second largest metropolis in the country behind the country’s current capital ‘Tokyo’. Osaka was destined to be the political centre of Japan as the then general ‘Toyotomi Hideyoshi’ chose this city to build his castle only for his successor to shift the power to Tokyo.

Osaka is known for its food, nightlife and architecture especially in the Dotonbori.

The Place

Osaka was the first city I visited in Japan and my first impressions was that it was an industrial city as I saw plenty factories whilst travelling from the airport to my hotel.

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We stayed at the ‘Keihan Universal Tower Hotel’ near the ‘Universal Studios’ theme park.  Although far and complicated to travel to ‘central Osaka’ and other significant attractions in the city, it was a good clean area with its own characteristics. The area which is just outside the theme park is known as Universal citywalks it was a very lively place from early morning till about 11pm in the night full of performers, restaurants and other amusements. Food is plentiful and although expensive there are various local and western cuisine to choose from, whether a quick snack or finer dining ‘citywalks ‘ caters to all.  The nearest station ‘Universal city’ can get very busy at peak hours in the morning and evening from tourists entering and exiting the theme park, so if staying in the area it is would be good to plan timings of when to roam.

Universal studios was a great outing, but you will have to leave a whole day.

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Another Place we visited in Osaka is Dotonbori a very famous place for nightlife and dining, one of Osaka’s principal tourist destinations. Best visited at night the street which runs along the Dotonbori canal is lit by many luminous flashing lights full of different colours and shapes which equates to stunning photographic opportunities. Here we found a brilliant Japanese restaurant (forgot the name) where we tried the famous Wagyu beef.

Shinsabashi which is the next road parallel to Dotonbori is also a booming place at night, full of restaurants , bars, clubs and a traditional market.

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Probably the cover attraction of the city is ‘Osaka castle’ which centres ‘Osaka castle Park’. The park in itself is beautiful and around the ‘cherry blossom’ season  it is said to be a sight to see. In the middle of the park is two large ring lakes surrounded by amazing thick steep stone walls which were built to protect the castle in the early years as this was a frequent battle ground. These walls are impressive and there are boat tours to see these walls closer. Furthermore around the park there are many attractions such as shrines, various gardens, an American world war factory, baseball field and an outdoor events stage. Various restaurants, cafes and food stalls are inside the park which is very convenient as the park is huge and can take a whole day to roam. However the main attraction of the park is the ‘Osaka castle’ and its ‘Museum’, in my opinion the outside (of the castle) is impressive but  inside not too much, although it has plenty of historic artefacts.

Central Osaka (Umada district) is not much of a haven for tourist but a nice place to visit anyway. Here you can go shopping with many different modern outlets and dine at some of the city’s finest restaurants. ‘Osaka Station’ in itself is a nice place and aight to see, although very busy with workers there are many places to unwind.

Just outside Osaka station you will see the famous and spectacular ‘Umada sky building’ with the ‘Kuchu Teien Observation deck’ which is a floating garden above the two towers. Here you can see the whole of Osaka.

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Lastly another place that must be visited whilst in the city is ‘Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium’, which is one of the largest in the world. A popular amusement and one in a few which houses the enormous  whale shark which they also use as their mascot. This aquarium has been the best so far with a diverse collection of creatures from mammals such as sealions and seals, birds such as penguins and the many fishes from around the world. The ‘Tempozan Ferris wheel’ and ‘Legoland’ are also based within the area, however I didn’t bother going to them as I believe they are more for the younger audiences.

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There are other places to see in the Osaka prefecture (city) that I didn’t or couldn’t visit due to the time I had. I decided to leave shrines and temples for my next city (prefecture) Kyoto as that was the place for it. Otherwise the only places I missed out were other districts and amusements such as Tennoji zoo.

Conclusion

My visit to Osaka City (Osaka prefecture)was interesting and a good place to start my whole Japan experience. The best way I could describe it was a smaller more conservative Tokyo (in my opinion). The city was busy and full of people with the train systems (like many in Japan) were a bit more complicated than other countries. There was plenty to do and visit in Osaka but the majority are modern amusements like the Universal studios, Lego land or Osaka aquarium. Osaka is not a place if you want to see shrines and temples as there is little to none, with the only significant historic structure is the castle.

Back to my Japan Trip

 

Reference:

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2157.html

Photo:

Brücke-Osteuropa (UmedaSky Building)

Next Trip: Japan, the new and the old

My last overseas trip to South American  was somewhat of an eye opener. The terrain, nature, culture and infrastructure of both Peru and Brazil was amazing with so much learnt. After Peru and Brazil I travelled across the United Kingdom to Cardiff, Wales’s capital city. Cardiff had similarities to London (my home) but is developing with huge investments, hopping to be a striving tourist destination, especially for shopping. However now its time to go far again and I’m using my yearly trip to the Philippines (which is my second home) commencing this May 18th to venture to new places and excurse to a nearby Asian country. Whilst in the Philippines I’ll be staying in my home city of Quezon City but I plan to roam and visit places I have never been yet, however till now i don’t have a clue where yet.

One thing is for sure and that’s a confirmed trip around Japan. Knowing me I like to roam as many cities in a limited amount of time, just like in Peru and Brazil with a duration of 10 days and my ‘South France and Spain trip’ which took me only 5 days.

The Journey

The cities I will visit in Japan are Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto which should show me many of the old and new aspects of the country.

I will enter Japan through Tokyo  but will transit (flight) straight to Osaka where I will stay one night. This should give me enough time to visit places such as the ‘Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium’, Osaka Castle and other attractions in the city. I will then take either train or bus from Osaka to Kyoto where I will stay for 2 nights, giving me 3 days to roam. Kyoto which was once the capital city of Japan is famous for numerous Buddhist temples, imperial palaces and much more. I intend to visit many of its attractions and dine in their many traditional restaurants. After Kyoto I will head back to Osaka and fly straight to the capital Tokyo where I will spend a further night. I believe Tokyo will be the bustling modern city of Japan, one of the worlds most advanced in technology. Furthermore as an extra bonus I may see some of the sites for the Olympics due to commence in 2020.

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I expect Japan to be very technologically advanced but very intact with their history and ancient culture. Furthermore I’m guessing Kyoto to be very strong in traditional culture and religion, whilst Tokyo and Osaka being a modern metropolis with the most modern infrastructure. Finally I think Japan will be fast paced and one of the most expensive ive travelled.