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Japan, March 2018



Osaka

On our Day 11 we left Hiroshima by JR bullet train to Osaka.

Again the train arrived and departed on time with reserved seats in Green car. We checked in at the Hilton Osaka for three nights. This is again in a very central location across the road from the station. Everybody agrees that Osaka is the place for eating and shopping. There are shopping arcades and restaurants everywhere to choose from. We started the afternoon with a visit to Osaka castle. This is a reconstructed castle and the interior is nothing like it would have been - compared to the magnificent Himeji castle which we would visit the next day.

Tonight we visited the most famous and lively night spot of the city, Dotombori. The name comes from the 400 year old canal running through the centre with pedestrian paths either side lined with shops, restaurants and illuminated billboards. There is also a very popular evening canal cruise with a long queue. Behind the canal there are streets of shops and more restaurants to chose from. It was lovely that the lively and crowded atmosphere did not include any loud music from any shops or restaurants.

On day 12 we took the JR train for a day trip to visit the UNESCO world heritage Himeji castle. This magnificent white castle can be seen from a long distance rising on its hill overlooking the town in a commanding position. This was a military castle with defensive walls with openings for firing and shooting arrows. There are 3 groups of buildings with the six storey main tower and two three storey wings at the side. You can join a queue to go up by lift to the fifth floor for a panoramic view of the city and then walk down the stairs viewing exhibits on each level. It takes about an hour to visit all five floors. The gardens around the castle are very pleasant with with many local people and visitors having their picnic lunches and gathering.

That night we had a wonderful Sushi meal at Yoshino Sushi, a 'kaiten-zushi' (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant. The food was fresh and delicious as the chef was making it in front of the customers and putting it on the conveyor belt. The best I have ever had in a sushi restaurant.

On day 13 we took another JR train for a day visit to Nara which has eight UNESCO sites. The big attraction is the large bronze Buddha in Todai-ji. The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is the centrepiece of this grand temple towering above you as you step through the impressive tall wooden doors. As you circle the statue round the back there are two fierce looking Nio guardians standing on both sides of the altar as protectors. There is also a long queue to walk up to the altar to pray in front of the Great Buddha.

Next we climbed the steps up to two smaller temples, the Nigatsudo Hall and the Sangatsudo Hall. There is a sweeping view of the town from up there. We carried on to Kasuga Taisha which is grandest Shinto shrine with many smaller shrines inside it. The colour red is shines out beuatifully against the green forest background with many gold and silver lanterns hanging along the long tori corridors making this the most attractive shrine.

Day 14 was our last day in Japan so we spent the day shopping and eating in Osaka. Shopping is very good from electronic and computer products to clothing and souvenirs and Japanese arts and crafts.

We enjoyed our two week trip to Japan for the first time. It was full of excitement with lovely temples, shrines, pagodas and beautiful and peaceful gardens plus the excellent shopping, eating, fun and robots and the wonderful electronic computer world. The trains are excellent with accurate timing and the service at restaurants, hotels and trains was excellent, polite with a greeting bow and a friendly smile. We will return to see other parts of Japan as soon as we can. If you wish to see Japan I enclose link below for our 14 days Japan itinerary. I would recommend it as we were very happy with our trip.

Japan Itinerary