The Ladybug’s Japan bound pt.2: Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nikko

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (16)

When you travel around Japan the best way to do it is by train. Train are fast and always on time (this is not just a legend about Japanese public transportation!) but they are also quite expensive. For this reason before leaving for your trip it is essential that you purchase a Japan Rail Pass in your country that you will activate once you arrive in Japan.

We bought a JRP for one week only (between Kyoto and Tokyo) in order to concentrate all our train trips during this time before ending the trip in Tokyo. We then left Kyoto to travel to Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima and Osaka before heading back to Tokyo from where we had just a one-day trip to Nikko (2-hour train ride from Tokyo) for which you buy a specific ticket including train and access to the World Heritage site of Nikko or other sites if you decide to spend two days in the area.

But let’s proceed with the first stop: Nara. We decided to ask for a free walking tour in town and we got a really nice tour guide living in the city who showed us the beauty of his town starting from the famous Todai-ji site, probably my favorite Buddhist temple in Japan, including the big green area (Nara Park) around the temples full of small temples, pagodas and loads of free lovely deer who love to play with visitors and eat from their hands! The main temple, the Great Buddha Hall, is amazing and it contains the largest bronze statue of Buddha. We stopped for lunch in a super nice restaurant in the city center of Nara where we ate the delicious saba (mackerel) sushi, the typical Nara sushi wrapped in bamboo sheaths.

Near the restaurant there was a super nice vintage shop where I got a really nice (and soft) after lunch shopping session before heading to the Kasuga Taisha, the biggest Shinto shrine in Nara surrounded by a beautiful and mysterious forest. After the tour, on our specific request, our guide brought us to a very special place where we could be part of the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (5)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (7)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (4)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (6)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (23)

Second stop of the tour of Japan by train: Kobe. The small town is very famous for its kobe meat, which is the main reason why we visited it. Two of us are vegetarian but our friend really wanted to taste it then we decided to go there. First we decided to head to the famous Nunobiki Herb Garden of Kobe where we got with a cable car and where we enjoyed a beautiful nature and a great view of the town. During the visit we enjoyed a pretty much needed herbal feet bath, we tasted a delicious lavender ice-cream and I took hundreds of photos of succulent plants (my succulent goals!). Of course we had separate lunch: while one of us was tasting kobe meat we found just in front of her restaurant an amazing and super cheap sushi place where we got one of the tastiest sushi ever! We then moved to the Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Museum for a little sake tasting before moving to the next stop: Hiroshima. Just in time for the A-bomb Memorial day, the next day.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (1)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (3)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (2)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (8)

Hiroshima was probably one of the most emotional stops of our tour. We got up very early in the morning to make sure to be near the A-bomb Dome (the only building that didn’t fall down during the atomic attack of the 6th of August 1945) for the 1 minute of silence to remember the victims of the attack. There was a lot of people, most of them were not even born during the facts but many had family concerned by this tragic event. We then visited the peace memorial museum and park and we were amazed by the importance of peace for all the people there. They were not only remembering the past, they were especially celebrating peace. As the morning in Hiroshima was very emotional we decided to allow us some time to relax before heading back to the peace celebrations. We decided then to stop in a restaurant in the city center to taste the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki (a bit different from other parts of Japan as they are done with noodles) and a green tea ice cream before taking the boat to Miyajima island. This island was amazing: there was peace, calm and deers and we enjoyed the view of the famous Shinto tori (door) on the water from the beach. We were then reinvigorated to go back to Hiroshima for the Peace floating lanterns ceremony at the end of the afternoon, where everyone wrote a message of peace on a paper lantern that was illuminated and let float on the river with hundreds of other colored lanterns. I think that we will never forget this experience, possibly one of the most touching of my life.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (9)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (10)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (11)

The day after we woke up to catch a train for our next adventure: Osaka. There our free walking tour guide was waiting for us to bring us to the beautiful Osaka Castle that is a sort of Museum with very interesting temporary and permanent exhibitions on Japanese art and history. On the way back we stopped to taste the famous tokoyaki (octopus balls) and to eat in an amazing restaurant advised by our tour guide where we ate the best udon and tempura ever! In the afternoon we visited the city center before catching our last train to Tokyo and start the second part of the journey.

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (13)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (14)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (12)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (15)

While in Tokyo we dedicated one day to the visit of Nikko. Until the very last day we were not sure if it was worth the visit because we had very different feedbacks from friends and other travelers online. We decided to go and we didn’t regret it at all.  Nikko is full or culture and tradition. With the pass that we got at the train station we could get a bus from the station to the World Heritage site of the Toshogu Temple (the access was also included) that is absolutely amazing! The architecture, decoration, colors, atmosphere are unique and we could also see the Three wise monkeys and the Sleeping Cat. Also the red sacred bridge Shin-Kyo was fantastic, immerged in the beautiful nature of Nikko. So if you are thinking shall I visit it or not, my answer is definitely yes!

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (19)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (20)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (17)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (22)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (18)

The Ladybug Chronicles Japan (21)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s