Kon-nichi-wa (hello) from Japan!

After a lengthy journey – 9.5 hours flying from Melbourne to Singapore, 3.5 hours spent lounging in Singapore airport and 6.5 hours flying from Singapore to Osaka – we arrived on Japanese soil at 9am on a Sunday. And now, our adventure began.

Day 1: At Osaka airport we exchanged our pre-booked Japan Rail vouchers for tickets and booked seats on the next train to Kyoto, our first destination and home for the next six days. Three trains, three hours and multiple requests for information later, we found ourselves at the stylish Kyoto Royal Park Hotel in downtown Kyoto; as it turned out, a great location from which to experience this wonderful city and its culture.

Later that afternoon we wandered a few blocks to the Gael Irish Pub for an arrival drink and live viewing of the 2016 Australian NRL Grand Final between my beloved Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla Sharks. Disappointed at the loss, we followed one of Kyoto’s crystal clear canals down backstreets and I drowned my sorrows in a mug of Japanese green tea and dinner for two at one of the hundreds of local Japanese restaurants.

Day 2: Somewhat revived, we walked in drizzle nearly six kilometres to the famous Nijo Castle which was built in 1603 as the first Tokugawa Shogun’s residence. Those of you who have read Lian Hearn’s Across the Nightingale Floor will be aware of the special timber floors installed to ‘sing’ like a nightingale, to alert the Shogun of the enemy’s approach. The floors certainly sang today! The surrounding gardens are beautiful but unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the castle.

We found refuge from what was now rain in the fantastic series of shopping arcades known as Teramachi. In the 16th Century the warlord Toyotami Hideyoshi moved many of the city’s temples here to try to control the clergy and Teramachi literally means ‘temple town’. Here, hundreds of shops sell everything from paper and books to musical instruments, incense and rubber stamps, clothes and shoes, stylish souvenirs and food – occasionally punctuated by temples.

We lunched on fresh sandwiches at the very ‘western’ Tully’s Café and dined that night on pasta at Giovanni’s Pizza house – the only Italian restaurant where we’ve seen a full complement of Japanese chefs. Delicious food by the way.

Day 3: The Nishiki Market is akin to the fresh meat and deli section of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets, and there are some fascinating products, many of which we could not identify. We did, however, handpick a cup of dried fruits (apple, mandarin, pineapple, kiwi fruit and peach) which were wonderful eating. Lunch was at a local sushi train where we saw sushi like we’d never seen it before…

Late that afternoon we attended a traditional tea ceremony which was delightful. The tea madam demonstrated this ancient art with such skill. Here it is called a ‘movement’ which is what it is all about – moving gently and peacefully from the iron pot to the tea to the bowl, etc. Although the tea was a little strong for our liking, the whole experience was amazing.

Day 4: What a full day! After breakfast at our favourite boulangerie, we caught a train into Kyoto Station and then on to the town of Nara. Nara’s main claim to fame is its park, which contains the town’s temples and shrines as well as a major museum. We particularly enjoyed the Great Buddha Hall with its giant Buddha (14.98 metres tall) and the nearby Todaiji Museum with its fabulous 8th Century timber sculptures. And as we wandered through the park we were accosted on many occasions by the wild (but somewhat tame) deer who inhabit it in great numbers. Jim couldn’t help buying some special deer biscuits and engaging in a spot of deer feeding!

From Nara we trained to Osaka, Japan’s second biggest city. With only a couple of hours we spent time in the amazing underground and highrise shopping centres. The Japanese sure know how to shop!

It was dark by the time we arrived back at the hotel and exhausted, we enjoyed a drink downstairs in The Bar whilst we organised our next adventure.




  1. Awesome blog, Penny. Loving your adventures and the photos too. :-)

  2. Hi Penny and Jim, Enjoyed reading about your adventures here and your beautiful photos. A lot of glass in the shopping areas. Kind of surprised with the earthquakes they get there. Do they have grocery stores like here in the states & probably in Australia and your area as well? Look forward to seeing reading more from your trip. Enjoy yourselves. Love, Kim

    1. Lots of little 711 stores but we've only seen one big supermarket and that wasn't here in Kyoto. The problem for us is that just about everything is printed in Japanese!

  3. Use of lots of pictures and visuals to get by with then

    1. Absolutely. One picture is worth a thousand words?

  4. Hi Penny
    it's always nice to read your adventures!
    I laughed when I read that you went to a pizzeria ! Italian are everywhere!
    Have a good trip


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