We left Kyoto fairly leisurely on the Shinkansen to Okayama, where we changed onto another to Kojima. We had booked an air bnb in Kojima and had arranged for our host, Khaki, to pick us up at the station. We arrived and immediately noticed a huge pair of jeans attached to the wall of the station. Khaki later explained that Kojima was where many denim factories were and it is famous for its ‘jeans street’. When we arrived at our bnb we noticed how quiet it was, such a contrast to Kyoto, it was up on a hill surrounded by greenery and in an old traditional Japanese house, but still filled with many gadgets like automated lighting, vacuum cleaner etc.
We had booked it because Khaki was a potter and had a pottery workshop and kiln out the back. He showed us around and explained how the kiln worked and the type of pottery they produce, Bizen Pottery which is only fired twice a year. We met his mum and dad who were both so lovely and welcoming and they showed us some of the things they had met. Khakis dad, Washyu, kindly took us on a drive to a viewing point so we could see the huge bridges that connected where we were to Naoshima Island. On our way back he dropped us off at a very local sushi restaurant with conveyor belts and pictures to order with. We were in sushi heaven and soon realised that if we ordered off the menu, our food would arrive on its very own Shinkansen – operated by the kitchen! They even did chicken nugget sushi! And it was really good value for quality sushi (compared to the UK).
The next day we got up to go for a run to the nearby supermarket. We took one of Khakis bikes that he said we could borrow and headed off in search of a shop. When we got back, Washyu kindly left us some hand picked mushrooms and some eggs from his chickens so we cooked up a feast of a breakfast and also had some of his homemade honey on our bread. Once we had packed our bags we went next door to look at the work Khakis family had made, Khaki’s mum then took us to her old house, a 5 minute drive from the bnb. It was a very traditional Japanese wooden house which had been in her family for over 100 years. She explained she had grown up there, but now her brother and his wife lived there.
We then went for a walk on what used to be the old railway tracks, enjoying the sun and views of the sea. We had booked into the little cafe adjoining our bnb for lunch called Hütte. It was owned by an American guy called Don, who was also a potter and he built the restaurant after meeting Khaki and his family making pottery. We were given a set menu which was so beautiful, a fusion of Japanese and American food which when put together was really interesting and so tasty! It was all served on his handmade pottery and his cafe also served as a gallery.
It was lovely meeting Khaki and his lovely family and learning about pottery. We were so thankful for their wonderful hospitality, it was a lovely relaxed break from the fast pace of the cities.
After lunch we jumped on a train to Hiroshima. Once we arrived at the hotel and had dumped our heavy bags in our rooms we wasted no time and headed straight out again. The sun was setting so we went to a nearby garden called Shukkeien Gardens. It’s a typical Japanese garden, with downscaled views of landscapes around Asia. Originally built in 1620, it was destroyed when the atomic bomb hit in 1945. It was rebuilt and is now a tranquil garden in the middle of a very busy city. It was so peaceful wandering around and as we were near closing time there was no one else there!
The next day we got up and headed straight over to the Peace Memorial. We arrived and the first thing we saw was the A-Dome, one of the only structures remaining buildings and was kept as a tribute to the victims. We went from there over the river to the Children’s Peace Memorial, built in memory of all the children who had died, which was a large number as they had been drafted into the city to build fire defences as the time. From there we went to the Cenotaph which was a beautiful structure with a flame in the middle – this flame will keep burning until there are no longer any nuclear weapons in the world. We then went to the Peace Memorial Museum where we spent an hour or so learning about the effects of the bomb and the aftermath – a very sobering visit!
After we had visited the museum we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and headed on the Shinkansen to Osaka!
We arrived in Osaka in the early afternoon and went in search of our airbnb, a traditional 1 bed flat in the city. We decided to walk there to save money on a taxi! Once we had dumped our bags and figured out where we were in relation to a lot of the sights we headed out to Dōtonbori Street, a lively street in the centre of Osaka which had a large amount of neon signs and food stalls.
We got the subway there, which was pretty simple once we figured out the ticketing system! We spent a couple of hours wandering around the streets and then decided to go for a drink and some food, we found a cute riverside restaurant called Miyagawa, right next to the famous ‘running man’.
The next day we set off for a food market called Kuromon Market for brunch. It was so busy and full of fresh fish and Kobe beef. We filled up on Oysters, fresh tuna sushi and other interesting food items. Grant wanted to try Kobe beef so we shopped around for the best price but, being Kobe beef, it was all expensive so we settled for 1 skewer! It was amazing! I’ve never seen two people eat 1 skewer of meat so slowly! I was desperate to try green tea ice cream so today was the day, and it was worth it – so tasty!
After lunch we headed over to the National Bunraku Theatre where we had booked to see a theatre puppet show. Out of the whole show we got tickets for 1 out of 7 parts of the show, which goes on all day – the part we watched was an hour long. It was nothing like we’d seen before! There were the puppets dressed in beautiful costumes, and 3 puppeteers per puppet. There was a man narrating and a mandolin player accompanying him. We would definitely recommend getting the English audio guide though as otherwise we would have had no idea what was going on!
After lunch we went back to Dōtonbori as there were loads of interesting side streets running alongside it that we wanted to explore, selling all sorts from Manga, gadgets to shops selling all things cat related to Massage chairs to souvenir shops and everything in between! We had fun observing all the people visiting it and eventually decided to get some food. We wanted to try Okonomiyaki, a special dish from Osaka which consists of a pancake with meat and noodles on top with a pancake on top of that finished off with special okonomiyaki sauce and strangely mayonnaise! We’d been recommended a place called Chibo by the bar tender from the restaurant the night before. It’s definitely a must have dish if you are in Hiroshima or Osaka (apparently Hiroshima does it better, but we only had it in Osaka so can’t judge) after a plum wine and a sake we called it a night as we had a long journey the next day to Mt. Fuji!
The journey to Mt.Fuji was our longest journey yet, changing 4 times onto various trains and a mountain train that took us up to Kawaguchiko station. From there we had to get a 40minute bus ride to Yamanakako Lake, which fortunately dropped us right outside our hotel. The whole journey had taken us just under 6 hours and we felt like we’d crossed the length of Japan to get there (in reality we had gone a long winded way in a kind of semi circle shape!) We had booked into a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese style hotel called Tagaogi, with an Onsen, a natural hot spring bath. The view from our room was amazing, it was a perfect view of Mt.Fuji and we got there just as the sun was setting. We headed straight down to the Onsen. Again, like Kyoto, it was segregated (fortunately both were empty when we got there) but it had an outside bath which was beautiful and very atmospheric with all the snow – although we both agreed a glass of wine would have been great! After our Onsen we had booked a traditional 10 course Japanese meal. When we got there everyone else was dressed in their kimonos that were in our rooms, we didn’t realise we had to wear them so rocked up in our normal clothes (Grant had suggested it but I wasn’t sure of the etiquette) we did regret our decision as soon as we arrived, but also as the meal went on, a loose kimono would have been ideal! We had so many different types of food all served beautifully on various little plates and cups. We also tried some Japanese cherry wine which was very strong and very sweet but tasty, we also had some trusty sake! It was a great experience and well worth spending a bit more on than usual.