– Japan 082015

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Japan was amazing… one week is not enough however. I would definitely recommend a visit to Japan. I can’t wait to go back again one day

Saturday – Goodbye London

Setting out from Heathrow. The adventure begins
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Hello European coast!
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Approaching Frankfurt Airport
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Goodbye Frankfurt
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Flying over clouds that look like a sea of snow.
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Mountain Peaks rising above the clouds
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Look carefully; can you see the lakes and rivers that sit above the clouds?
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Sunday – Hello Japan

Greeted in Japan by a very friendly security agent just double checking that I did indeed mean to answer “no” to the customs question about whether or not I was carrying drugs… A quick bag check and I was allowed on my way.

Upon exiting the airport, there was a constant loud buzzing… I assumed this was some sort of electrical transformer scattered throughout the streets, I was wrong… It was in fact the sound of Cicadas… My first experience of them.

Seeing the sights of Kobe as I ride the limousine bus in from the airport.
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Signs on the train platform… I’ve still no idea what they mean!
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First Day in Japan. Amazing cityscape view from the 12th floor of the Ana Crowne Plaza hotel, Kobe.
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First night in Japan.
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Monday – On the way to the old wooden school

Driving up to the old wooden school – staying there the night for an early start white water rafting session with Happy Raft.

The number 666 seems to be following me everywhere, even in Japan when shopping for snacks!
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Somewhere in the Tokushima Prefecture on the way to driving up to the old school
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Sounds of the Cicada
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Took a detour to a rope\vine bridge. Kazura-bashi Bridge, one of the last remaining working vine suspension bridges in Japan from what my research tells me. Apparently it’s maintained every three years.
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Nice views from the rope bridge
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People looking very scared on the rope bridge
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Stopped by a waterfall by the rope bridge
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Up close and personal with the waterfall
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Standing under the waterfall
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My ride in Japan – ‘cute’ little pink car :\
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The old wooden school – spent a night here before rafting
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My Bedroom at the wooden school, not bad for £21 for the night!
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Playing poker with the school hosts.
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Picture by Kazusa:
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Tuesday – rafting: near death experience

Morning greeting from a stick insect
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Rafting was amazing. I can’t swim, but no problem I thought… I have a life jacket… how very wrong I was… when you’re in the rapids, the ability to swim or float makes very little difference. If the current wants you underwater, it will take you underwater.

Started with a swim through a level two rapid… relatively calm… I hadn’t realised going in head-first was a poorly thought out idea… I almost drowned.

Several water games followed, rafting rodeo, being thrown into the water, rafts being purposefully turned over etc. Towards the end of the morning session we stopped by some cliffs, low, medium and high… people jumped off them. Took me a while to draw up the courage, I went for the small one. Didn’t breathe yet still managed to get water up my nose… handled it better than the previous swims in the water but still felt the sensation of drowning!

Before lunch we went surfing with the rafts on some very angry looking rapid. I am somewhat convinced that the rafts were intentionally flipped upside down for fun :) Some rafts would get caught up in the rapids for a while before being spat out. My worst nightmare came true when it was my turn… I got caught under the raft! I had no choice but to wait for the current to draw me under a second time and spit me out. Scary and exciting… would I do it again? Hell yes although it still feels me with fear.

After lunch the real fun began… more rapids and more being thrown out of the raft for a laugh. Before that, another jump off a cliff… We proceeded from the lunch area towards the rafts… the queue of people descending split into two… a “jump” and a walk… I assumed the jump meant jumping over a couple of small rocks… yet again i was wrong… they meant jumping into the river… Everyone was happily jumping down. I looked down, too late to turn back, but I could see rocks by the side… given my luck, I knew Murphy’s law would kick in… I’ve read numerous articles about foreigners going abroad, taking a dive and hitting rocks at the bottom… I was not going to become the next foreigner being reported in local news (and my holiday insurance wouldn’t cover this)… I tried to back out… forget pride, I’d rather live thank you… “no, just climb a little lower” they said… so after much hesitation I did… glad I did as this time, I mastered falling into water and not drowning!

All in all, an awesome experience. I think swimming lessons are in order for me, but would love to go rafting again and I highly recommend it!

Picture by KE:
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Jumping into the river from the low jump. One scary experience for a non-swimmer… holding your breath is not enough… hold your nose!
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Raft Surfing – flip the raft over in some rapids, hope not to get stuck underneath…
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Rafting – sit back and enjoy the view
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Second night in Kobe. Nice cityscape view from the 18th floor of the Ana Crowne Plaza hotel, Kobe.

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Wednesday – Soar like an eagle

Went ziplining… no cameras allowed unfortunately… silly health and safety rules. I’d recommend it. tried all sorts of ziplining… zip-lined forwards, with a spin, “flying” like superman and “flying” on my back… all amazing experiences.

Picture by Kazusa:
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On the way to Hikone Castle Resort
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Passed over Biwa-ko Lake big bridge in Shiga-ken, this bridge sings! (or plays a melody) there’s recesses \ raised areas of the road which are engineered such that cars will vibrate in a specific pattern when driving over them, almost like an old record player… the car being the pin and amplifier.

this video is not mine, but someone has posted a recording of them driving over the bridge… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mlv0apjv2ak

here’s wikipedia’s take on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_road

amazing stuff!

Stayed in the Hikone Castle Resort & Spa opposite the castle.
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Managed to catch a glimpse of a cute looking bin truck – I like to take random pictures like this
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Dinner at the Castle Resort – Staff went over and above the line of duty. They prepared a delicious meat-free Japanese dinner.
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The resort recommends wearing traditional Japanese costume in the hotel. It was very comfortable.
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From my room at the resort I could see clouds drifting between the mountain tops in the far distance – what a mystical sight.
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Thursday – Punishment?

Cycling… that was what I thought I was going for… it wasn’t the case… it was 3 hours of exercise. Made me realise just how untrained my legs had become.

That said, when you are cycling through rice fields, only the sound of nature, mountains to one side and a lake to the other, the experience is quite serene.

Picture by Kazusa
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Back streets of Kyoto
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The Golden Pivilion, Kyoto
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Final Stay at Ana Crowne Plaza, this time on the 25th floor. Views were awesome.
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Friday – right place, wrong time

Took a walk around Kobe.
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Visited Kobe Mosque – Japan’s oldest mosque. An argument broke out… Someone wanted to raise some political issues. Whilst it might have been the right place, to raise such issues during Friday prayers is not the right time. I tried to be a hero and calm the guy down, but given time constraints I gave up and left after performing prayers on my own in a quiet room.
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I had the pleasure of enjoying some herbal rose tea. Not as sweet as I was hoping – it had a slight bitter aftertaste, but was lovely.
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Ikuta Jinja Shrine
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I took a walk along flower Road. Saw the Flower Clock.
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It was powered by solar panels on the Kobe Municipal Hall
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Hands artwork, flower road
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More views along Flower Road
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The Kobe Express
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I decided to visit China town
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Quite a long queue for a food stall!
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Kobe Subway
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View from my hotel room, goodnight Japan!
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Saturday – Kobe’s hidden beauty

Hidden away behind Shin Kobe station are some magnificent waterfalls – the Nunobiki waterfalls. Go to Shin Kobe station, but instead of going into the station, walk through the under-pass by the coach stop… You will find a trail that leads up towards the Nunobiki reservoir. It’s hard to believe that such an awesome site sits just a 5 min walk from my hotel room! A 40 min trail takes you to sights that include the following:

One of the waterfalls… excuse the camera angle.. I had the camera mounted to my belt
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For anyone interested in taking the trail, the following clip is brief but shows the access underpass to get to it

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Full walk at x900 speed
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Men-taki. This dam feeds Kobe and is considered one of the properties of national cultural importance.
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On-taki.43 meter high waterfall
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Shrine\temple. One of several dotted around Japan
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This ‘little’ bug decided to say hello
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View from an observation deck on the Nunobiki trail
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Scenic waters…. By the Shin-Kobe underpass… Such a beautiful sight hidden under a railway station.

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Sannomiya shopping street – blocks of ice encapsulating various gifts you can get if you melt the ice. Nice idea!
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Lunch in the 34th floor Ana Crowne Plaza Hotel.
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Took a walk around Kitano – a lot of European influence
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Saw “The English House”
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Kitano Tenman Jinja Shrine
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Street Performers of Kitano
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Had my caricature drawn by this guy… you set the price… he suggests giving him £5.

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View from Minato Observation Deck
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sounds from the observation deck
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Goodnight and goodbye Japan!
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