Tokyo 2.0 東京 Feb 8 -Feb 9

Wednesday 08 February – Thursday 09 February

We left Sapporo early morning and spent the rest of the day traveling by train back to Tokyo for our last stay in Japan, It was all coming to an end so fast and I couldn’t believe we would be flying home to Australia soon. Once we arrived back at the Ours Inn Hankyu were we had free time to go out on the city to get dinner. I left we the guys to get ramen then Karaoke, we sang songs for 2 hours before leaving for the hotel for more party room chills, shower, and bed.

The final day had come but not without a spooky incident that morning. Last night I went to sleep I kicked my slippers off beside the bed, but that morning I awoke to find my slippers back where they usually are when you enter the room next to Tim’s slippers both on their side with the soles pressed together. I was alone in that room overnight, as Tim was in Osaka visiting a friend, I cannot think of any reason how they got that way but it really rattled me. Anyway, After my final onsen bath we checked out of the hotel we had free time for fun in the city. I decided to go to Akihabara with the others because I had to buy a few things for my friend back in Australia.

I always found it cool and interesting how passionate Allison and the other are with anime and Pop Culture. The time in Akihabara quickly came to an end as it was time to leave for the airport, It really dawned on me at that point that we were actually leaving. I was filled with sadness and relief at the same time, I was going to miss Japan and being with everyone I met on this trip but I also missed being alone at home. After receiving our plane tickets, we had time to relax in the departure lounge before our flight back to Australia. The flight was absolutely awful, I didn’t manage any sleep and I was glad when it was finally over. Stepping off the plane in Australia was rough as I was not prepared for the heat. We passed through customs and said goodbye to each other, my sister arrived shortly after to pick me up and go home.

Looking back on the trip I was incredibly content with my experience, I went through a range of emotions, I met and bonded with so many lovely people, I tried an array of amazing Japanese cuisine and learned so much about Japan and myself. I am so grateful for having the chance to participate on the Japan Study Tour, I will carry the memories I forged in Japan for the rest of my life.

Sapporo 札幌 Feb 6 – Feb 8

Monday 06 February – Wednesday 08 February

With Zao onsen in the rear vision mirror we made our way to Sapporo via train. The trip took most of the day but we kept ourselves interested with Uno and food, the scenery outside was pretty with mountains and small towns covered in snow. That night we arrived in Sapporo, checked into the Hotel Sapporo Met’s where we would be staying for the duration of our stay then made our way downtown to find a nice ramen dinner and see the Sapporo Snow Festival 「札幌雪まつり」(Sapporo yuki matsuri).

(http://www.snowfes.com/english/)

We were lucky to find a ramen shop in the crowded streets, however, the Ramen cook at the shop certainly was a character and wasn’t too pleased with her shop being full of Australian foreigners… despite her harsh nature the ramen was great. img_0171We then wandered around and saw the really cool ice sculptures in the streets before returning to the lobby beers and chills.

The next day Jason and I planned to travel to Yoichi 「余市」 to visit the famous Nikka Whiskey Distillery  「余市蒸溜所」(Yoichi jōryū-sho).

The whiskey there is considered so good it has received various awards in 2015 and most recently the World Whiskey Award in 2016. The hour and a half train ride there was fun with the beautiful scenery outside, we even met some Australians.

Once at Yoichi we attempted to navigate to the Distillery but ended up a little lost so we decided to follow the mass of foreigners and luckily lead us to there. Inside the Distillery was not what I expected it look more like a small closed off village than a factory. We made our way to quickly to taste testing where we tried Apple Wine, Takesura and Super rare old.

However, the real stuff we found later on after leaving the shop. There was the aged single caste whiskey that we tasted. It was amazing and a shame we were out of time and had to leave.

Once we regrouped with the rest of the guys, we went to visit the Sapporo Beer Museum were we learnt about the history and how to pour the perfect Sapporo Beer.

(http://www.nikka.com/eng/distilleries/yoichi/)

After the Museum, we went next door to a restaurant where we drank and ate seafood, a few speeches were spoken and lots of love was shared. Our last night in Tokyo was tomorrow.

 

 

Tokyo/Hiroshima 東京/広島 Feb 1 – Feb 4

Wednesday 01 February – Saturday 04 February

We left Hikimi by bus that morning in good spirits, our first stop on our journey to Tokyo was Hiroshima. The drive there was like all the others, white and surrounded by beautiful Japanese mountains. We arrived in Hiroshima at about lunch time were we then made our way to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 「広島平和記念資料館」(Hiroshimaheiwakinenshiryōkan).

Modern day Hiroshima is a bustling city it is quite hard to imagine that the city was once nothing but rubble 72 years ago. Walking through the museum and learning about what happened all those years ago left most of us in gloomy state of mind as we left to walk through the peace park.

We visited the memorial where the names of the victims are held then saw a statue where cranes are sent every year in hopes for peace and an end to Nuclear Deterrence.

(http://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/shimin/heiwa/crane.html)

Next we saw the Atomic Bomb Dome, a building still standing after detonation and was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1996. Before the war, the building served as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. From where we stood you could see where the bomb detonated 160 meters to the southeast of the Dome.

(http://visithiroshima.net/world_heritage/20th/a_bomb_dome/)

Once we had done our sightseeing we were free to get some lunch and do some shopping before we left for Tokyo. img_0031Visiting Hiroshima reminded me of the horrendous capabilities of humans and the extent we will go to to kill each other. However, Hiroshima also told a story of how from the ashes of destruction and loss of life something beautiful can be created.

It took a while but we finally made it to the capital of Japan, TOKYO!! It was dark by the time we arrived. After a quick hustle through the train stations we made it to the Hotel the Ours Inn Hankyu 「アワーズイン阪急」 , the hotel was really nice and even had a flash onsen inside that I’ll be definitely trying later. We decided as a group to go out and visit Shibuya, we split into groups some decided on karaoke, while we and others decided on food. Myself and a few other left for ramen, we found a nice ramen restaurant nearby.

After dinner we were quite tired so we decided to head back to the hotel to sleep.

One of the things I wanted to observe in Japan was the cost of living, so after some digging around on the internet and noticing local job advertisement on the street I discovered that the average wage of most low-end jobs in Japan sit around 800yen/hr. (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/minimum-wages) So a typical 8 hours of work adds up to about 6400yen, 32000yen for a 5-day week (though Japanese people generally work longer hours, so the weekly pay could be much higher). So, with the average monthly income coming up to about 142000yen – 160000yen (http://www.worldsalaries.org/japan.shtml), if you were to deduct monthly living cost

  • Rent 50000yen (16.7225sq meters)
  • Utility fees 10000yen
  • Food 35000yen
  • Phone/Internet 8000yen
  • Travel 2000yen
  • Average total = 105000-110000yen

You’d be left with about 50000yen for a yearly saving of at least 600000yen. However, that was in regards to minimum wage.

(https://www.realestate.co.jp/en/rent)

The next day we visited Tokyo Disneyland. I don’t much have to say as it wasn’t really my cup of tea, although I enjoyed being with everyone.

After we made it back to the hotel, a few of us went to dinner at the pizza restaurant downstairs. The pizza was a nice change from the usual Japanese dishes we had been eating. The rest of the night included onsen and party room antics.

Day 3 we decided to do some sightseeing with the group. First stop we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, and enjoyed the view from up high.

Next we split up in Ginza for lunch, I went with the Danica and the boys to get Mexican food which was value for money. After we met up, we left for Asakusa 「浅草」to visit a very popular Buddhist temple, built in the 7th century called Sensōji 「浅草寺」.

(http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3004.html#/sensoji)

Next stop we visited probably the most anticipated place for the group which was Akihabara, I bought a figurine before making my way back to the Hotel.

The next day we leave for the snow in  Zao Onsen.

 

 

Nagano/Yudanaka 長野/湯田中 Jan 23 – Jan 25

Monday 23 January – Wednesday 25 January

Goodbye homestay and hello snow, The train ride to Nagano was pretty uneventful besides the head deep mountains of snow everywhere. I’ve never seen so much snow in my life, I was blown away by the sheer amount of it, I can only imagine how the people who had never see snow before felt. Once we left the station we bused it to our first stop the Hokusai museum. I found the museum to be really interesting, there was all kinds of art work from paintings to literally old manga. We couldn’t take photo’s for obvious reasons, even so I really enjoyed it. (https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spot/museum/hokusaikanart.html)

Once we left it was time to travel to the Ryokan we would be staying at, the Uotoshi Ryokan 「魚敏旅館」. Upon arrival we helped unload the bags and checked in, I found the Ryokan to be quite nice due to the fact of our massive room with the boys. We went for dinner at a little restaurant called Tama ya chanko ryōri 「たまやちゃんこ料理」, It even snowed on the way there. Dinner was delightful and a few of us tried Basashi「馬刺し」raw horse meat. After dinner there was more party room antics then bed.

The next day we were spoiled with another wonderful Japanese breakfast that sadly not everyone ate, it was kinda embarrassing when people didn’t eat the food given to us… more for me I guess. img_9724After breakfast, we rode the bus to the mountain where we would see the snow monkeys, I was excited to see monkeys and more snow. After dismounting, It was a bit of a hike through the snowy hills to the monkeys, but we made it eventually and my god the monkeys were super cute. They were eating sticks, cuddling up in the water, and running around without a care in the world. We took plenty of photos and soon returned back down the hill for our pick up.

We made it back to the ryokan safely then had free time, a few of us decided on ramen so we found a little shop and ate till our heart’s content. The shop owners were lovely, and even gave us free apples as we left.

That night, we had a  Kyūdō「弓道」demonstration with the owner of the ryokan. As I owned a compound bow when I was younger I found it super interesting how the Japanese style of archery differed from the western style, I really wanted to have a go but I knew the my pinched nerves in my right arm I wouldn’t be able to draw the bow without accidentally dry firing. It was still fun to watch the others give it a try. (http://www.kyudo.com/kyudo-k.html)

img_9780

The next day we leave for Kyoto, I found the stay at Yudanaka to be relaxing as well as fun because of the laid back feel of the town and the snow. I’d love to return one day.