21 August 2019 | Sidney, Vancouver Island
06 August 2019 | Powell River
26 July 2019 | Campbell River
17 July 2019 | Port McNeil, Vancouver Island
05 July 2019 | Ketchikan
28 June 2019 | Petersburg, Alaska
17 June 2019 | Seward
04 June 2019 | Seward, Alaska
13 August 2018 | Kodiak town
16 July 2018 | Alaska
17 June 2018 | North Pacific
01 June 2018 | Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan
06 May 2018 | Mihonoseki
22 April 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Kunasaki
30 March 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Musashi, Oita
25 February 2015 | Puerta Galera, Mindoro island
07 February 2015 | Pinoy Boatyard Port Carmen

Tourists in Japan

22 April 2018 | Marin Pia Marina, Kunasaki
Jo
We wanted to do some of the tourist sights of Japan in cherry blossom season, so Easter Saturday saw us heading off with a small rucksack each for the five minute journey down the road to catch a flight for Tokyo, and the prospect of 10 days of travelling and sightseeing ahead of us.
The sun was shining, and Tokyo, which is a difficult city to get to grips with was looking its best. The cherry blossom culture of everyone picnicking under trees laden with blossom was everywhere. It is almost institutionalised, in Ueno park, huge areas are set aside to picnic in, big bins provided, and food stalls selling everything from champagne to delicious food all noisily vie for trade.
The atmosphere was great, and it was replicated in almost every park that we went to. The blossom season is early this year, and ‘sakura’ was nearly over, but many other varieties of blossom take over. We got to Tokyo Fish market a bit late, but there are lots of stalls and activitiy going on around, and I kicked myself for not buying a beautiful Japanese kitchen knife. From the nearby gardens of Hama-rikyu-teien, we took the river boat under very low bridges to Asakusa, and concluded yet again that Tokyo and indeed Japan has probably the worst architecture in the world.
The metro system in Tokyo, is very comprehensive, but what looks like a quick change to a different line can frequently mean a 15 minute walk and finding another station!
We were pleased to get out of the city after three nights, and begin to use out Japan Rail Passes, an expensive item to buy, but which allow you to travel on almost every train, and save endless hassle. From Tokyo we were heading north into the mountains, close to the skiing areas of Japan, and by leaving early we had time to have a worthwhile stop in Matsumoto to see one of Japan’s oldest and least restored castles. Because we had moved north, the cherry blossom was even more perfect than Tokyo!
The small town of Narai, is one of only three villages in the Kiso Valley which has survived intact with lovely wooden houses. Historically this series of villages had been staging posts for weary travellers climbing up rugged mountain passes beset by bad weather, thieves and brown bears. We stayed in a ryokan (Japanese homestay) for the night, on tatami mats and futons, served with delicious Japanese food.
Next day a morning train for one stop proved a convenient way to hike the mountain pass between villages, and unencumbered by luggage, in perfect weather walked the steepish 7 km, back to Narai, occasionally stopping to jangle the bells provided to deter the brown bears!
So, back on the train, we headed on to meet John Hamilton, a cousin in law of Giles’s, who has lived in Japan for 37 years, and is on the point of returning back to the UK. He collected us from Okazaki station, south of Nagoya, and then having collected an old friend Chieko we headed straight off to the public baths. We have had onsens in Japan, and this seemed similar to us, you indulgently soak in communal heated baths, some bubble, some are outside, and others have healing properties. They are segregated, and no one has any inhibitions about naked bodies! You feel very invigorated afterwards!
Next day John took us over to see his neighbour Sugita who has a wonderful garden, he is a plantsman, and amongst other things he created one of the best known hostas, he is also a huge collector and creator of camellias. See the photos in the attached album! John took us back to where he had lived for many years, a delightful rural spot amidst urban Okazaki, Nagoya, Toyoto sprawl. We called on another old friend of John’s, a tiny wizened friends, Eiko Miura, who used to teach ‘Tea Ceremony’, and fittingly gave us a cup of green tea, Macha.
We left John feeling that we had got properly off the tourist trail, and had an insight into how real Japan lives and works, it was a lovely contrast to the next few days of hard grind tourism!
Next stop was Nara, an early capital of Japan, where most of the temples are in the old deer park, and some of the mangiest looking sacred deer try and come and beg a biscuit from tourists! We managed to get around the famous Isui-en and Yoshiki-en gardens before the rain came. Nara’s most famous site is the largest Buddha in Japan, the Daibutsu who lives inside the largest wooden building in the world, built in 1709.
Kyoto, another early capital of Japan, is full of temples and wonderful gardens. The rain hadn’t let up since we left Nara, only a short journey away, but we managed to find a bus to the scruffy shoe box sized apartment where we were staying for three nights.
The rain had stopped for us next day, and we tried to pack in as many temples and gardens as we could. First to Daitoku-ji, a collection of Zen temples, many with small very perfect gardens, mostly raked gravel and some planting, then by bus back to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, to join the crowds who queue to see it in its very lovely setting. A walk from here took us to one of the world’s most famous Zen gardens Ryoan-ji, where 15 rocks of varying sizes sit in a sea of raked sandy gravel. Another park and garden later, and then a train on to the bamboo grove of Arashiyama, by which time it was raining, and tourists, umbrellas and selfie sticks made it an ordeal, mitigated by the garden of Tenryu-ji!
Our second day in Kyoto thankfully turned into a more relaxed experience than day one, another series of temples and gardens, and meticulous raked gravel. Ginkaku-ji, one of my favourites, has a flat topped cone, which made us wonder how it stayed up in the heavy rain. If I was building a sandcastle a torrential downpour would demolish it!!
There are temples everywhere in this area, and you cannot hope to do them all, so after Honen-in, we wandered off under the faded cherry blossom and pretty flowers lining the ‘Philosopher’s Path’, which runs alongside a small canal, and led us to our next temple of Nanzen-ji, where curiously a brick built aquaduct bisects the site rather attractively. We climbed up an underused path to a tiny shrine amongst the rocks where candles quietly burnt and a red bridge spanned a stream.
Our last Zen garden for the day the justifiably well known Kodai-ji, was a good stopping point before we were totally befuddled by it all!
I wanted to wander down the old Geisha district of Kyoto, and then go to the lively Nishiki food market, where the scallops on a skewer with slightly sweetened soy were absolutely delicious, as was much more besides.
Next day feeling totally exhausted by being tourists, we took the Shinkansen westwards, changing a couple of times before getting back to Beppu, and then an airport bus to Oita, saw us back in good time on Monday afternoon to organise our launch date for the next day!
Comments
Vessel Name: Brother Wind
Vessel Make/Model: Island Packet 45
Hailing Port: Blakeney, Norfolk UK
Crew: Jo and Giles Winter
About: Rolling selection of friends and family
Extra: Check my Instagram for pictures jogi_winter
Brother Wind's Photos - Jo and Giles round the world on Brother Wind (Main)
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IMG_0754: Brother Wind in Sydney Harbour
 
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From Taisha we moved northwards to Hakodate in Hokkaido, where we left the sea of Japan behind
17 Photos
Created 1 June 2018
12 Photos
Created 1 June 2018
Land travels in Japan
18 Photos
Created 22 April 2018
Sailing again
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Created 25 February 2015
10 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
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A trip up the Kinabatangan River in Brother Wind, with brother Jamie, wife Mel, and daughter Izzy
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Created 23 August 2012
Jamie,Mel and Issy Cooper joined us in K-K, Sabah, for a dramatic trip north and then stunning islands followed by a trip up the Kinabatangan river
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our trip back to Langkawi from the Andamans, with Mike and Laurian Cooper on board
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Passage Brisbane north to Whitsundays
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