Goodbye to the snow …

After a week in the the snow it is time to bid farewell to our friends and start the trek back to Australia. We will be doing it over a number of days. Today is a bus ride on the Nagano Snow Shuttle from Hakuba to the Narita Airport but we are not flying out today but staying at a hotel next to the airport.

We were about to get on the hotel shuttle when we were presented with an extra bill for Bradley but I was sure that I had already paid through Agoda when I paid for the rooms. There was no time to sort it so left the guy at reception to sort then get Agoda to let me know the outcome.

Next little issue was the Snow Shuttle makes a number of stops on the way being Nagano, a roadside service area then Tokyo before finally getting to Narita. The trip takes 6 hours and I asked if Bradley could be dropped at the Tokyo stop rather than Narita then initially the guy said no but then I reminded him that it was one of the stops and suddenly it was OK. I was given tags for all the bags and a Tokyo tag for Bradley’s bag and our ticket for the 5 of us in the back row of the 45 seater. As soon as the tag was on Bradley’s bag it disappeared into another bus. I grabbed the guy and asked whether Bradley was on a different bus and he said no and that his bag should be on our bus. A quick retrieval before that disappeared.

We were soon on our way travelling the same route we took for the Snow Monkeys on Monday as we recognised a lot of the landmarks even stopping at the same gift shop / tourist trap for a rest stop.

It wasn’t long before the snow was long behind us and a lot of the route was in tunnels through mountains with most tunnels 2 to 3 kilometres long. I am not sure what the speed limit was but our 3rd driver (we had a driver swap at each stop) must of thought he was a F1 Driver as were were topping out at 116 kph and overtaking a lot of traffic.

Around 3pm we dropped off Bradley at Shinjuku Station, this would save a couple of hours travel for him from Narita to Haneda. We flew into Haneda and will be flying out of Narita on Singapore Airlines. Bradley flew into Narita and is flying out of Haneda with Qantas. It wasn’t long and we had a message from Bradley whether his backpack was on the bus. It certainly was. He forgot to grab it when he jumped off the bus.

Our F1 driver ended up getting us early to Narita by 20 minutes, no surprises there. As we arrived, Jenny got a message from Bradley that he had arrived at his capsule hotel, Beagle Hotel. Onto a hotel shuttle which was a full size coach and we were soon at our hotel, Narita View Hotel. And there were certainly views as you could just about touch the planes as they took off past the hotel even though you couldn’t hear them. The walls and windows must have had good sound proofing. Our rooms were on the 10th floor with views of the end of the runways and the forests to the east.

The 7/11 was on the other side of the expressway but it was a kilometre walk to the nearest bridge across and down and a kilometre back. I wanted to grab some Jim Beam as it was cheaper here than duty free. (Y1200 for a 750ml bottle) as well as bits and pieces for breakfast.

One thing I had got used to was a daily soak in an onsen and tonight was the last chance to give it a go. Our hotel had one which was a bigger setup than the Oak Forest Hotel. The big difference was a cost to use this one of Y1000 for guests and Y1500 for anyone else. I was given a voucher to return in the morning if I wanted to. The water was 42C which was a little hot but I still managed 30 minutes of soaking but had to to be interspersed with 5 minute breaks. The added bonus was watching the planes take off while waving to the passengers but I am sure that they couldn’t see anything from that distance.

Tomorrow we leave Japan and head for Singapore for a couple of days. The walk to the 7/11 helped the steps after a day on the bus finishing with 7715 steps.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Last Day of Japan Skiing …

We awoke to some fog around the hotel but it wasn’t until breakfast time that the fog lifted to reveal blue skies and some sunshine for our final day of skiing. Also as a bonus there was another earthquake at the same location as last nights two but we didn’t feel this mornings as it was only a 2.9 magnitude.

Everyone’s legs and joints are getting weary so the plan today was to head back to Hakuba47 / Goryu and get a morning ticket (Y3980 each), catch the shuttle bus back at 130pm, walk to the Hakuba Ski Jump and have a look then return the skis and enjoy the rest of the night.

Arriving at Goryu, it was bluebird conditions and even though the temperature was only 4C, it felt like 10C or more and we were working up sweats. At the gondola entrance the Ski Patrol were trying to discourage anyone that was not an expert skier from going to the summit due to icy conditions. We convinced him we were experts and headed up.

It didn’t look too bad at the top but we took it easy heading down looking for these icy conditions but all we found was groomed corduroy with some loose powder on the surface. This would be a good day in Australia and we figured if it wasn’t at least 3cm of powder then it must be considered icy. It was good for a while as there wasn’t a lot of people up here but the locals soon realised that conditions were not all that treacherous and headed up too.

We left the summit and Goryu and managed to jag a new slope just as the rope went down then headed over to Hakuba47 to ski the rest of the time we had on the lift ticket. Down and on the 130pm shuttle bus and we were back at the hotel in 10 minutes, well Jenny, Rachael and I were. Bradley was still somewhere at the ski field. Found out he was still skiing and missed the bus. He wasnt too interested in going to the ski jump anyway.

A quick shower and we started walking through some snow paths to the Hakuba Ski Jump. This was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics and is an impressive structure. It consists of 2 jumps, a small one and a large one. You catch a ski lift up to the start building, then an elevator to a number of floors.

The top floor is the main observation deck which overlooks the 2 runs. Going down one floor and you can then venture outside to the start position of the large jump. There are great views from here of the jump as well as the surrounding Hakuba Valley. Venture down a few more floors and you can go out to the start of smaller jump. The gantry going out is mesh and you are looking down over a big drop to the ground. Rachael was not impressed by this. The large jump hugs the topography so the distance to the ground underfoot is not that bad. The final floor you get to have a look at holds all the memorabilia including a set of the medals for the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games. If you are in town it is worth a visit, if not for the jumps and the history but for the views that are afforded from the top.

After walking back to the hotel, we grabbed our skis and commandeered a shuttle bus which had finished his run at our hotel. We asked if he was heading back to base camp and if he could take us and he said “sure”. Our ski rental place was opposite base camp. Another task off the list.

There were no buses heading up the hill so it was a 1.2 km walk back to the hotel. It wasn’t long before Bradley and I were soaking in the onsen. We had it to ourselves but as we were getting out after 35 minutes of soaking, others started to make their way in.

Tonight’s dinner would be our final so the choice was for Japanese Italian at Pension Syo Restaurant. It was like walking into someones home with a big eating area. The meals and service were great and the prices were reasonable. Just as we started walking back to the hotel, it started to rain but was only light.

A good final days skiing with 15 runs for 21.35km. A lot of walking today but feel good for it with 13579 steps for the day.

Tomorrow we catch the Snow Shuttle for a 6 hour bus ride back to Tokyo.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019, Skiing | Leave a comment

Who brought this weather …

Looking out the window this morning and it was overcast but there was neither snow nor rain falling. By the time the shuttle bus got to today’s ski fields, Happo One, the snow was starting to fall. There was rain forecast for later today but this snow was icy and not wet. Not to chance it, we bought morning tickets (Y4200 each) with Seniors tickets not starting until 70 on this resort. This will allow us to ski until 1pm which is still 4 hours.

We started to take in some runs and the snow was getting heavier and the fog was rolling in. It wasn’t cold and the runs were good. By 11am the snow was turning more to sleet and we were getting wet. After a break in the cafe to dry out, headed out to finish out the morning pass but only lasted 30 minutes before being soaked again. Still managed 13 runs with a total of 16.87 km.

We caught the 1pm shuttle bus back to the Hotel and then went for a soak in the onsen for an hour (new record). Spent longer in their with a group of Americans chatting about our various trips around this planet. The kids must be broken as they are in their room sleeping and relaxing.

By 330pm, the sleet had changed to rain. Not sure how much we will get but hopefully there will be some snowfalls overnight to counteract the damage the rain makes to the runs.

By 6pm when we got on the hotel shuttle to take us down to Echoland it was absolutely teeming. This is going to some damage to the snow so not sure how much skiing will be done tomorrow.

Our choice for dinner was Cheshire, a little mum and pop restaurant who even though they have 24 seats, baulked a little when the eleven of us walked in. They apologised that the meals will take some time but ended up it was quicker than some of the other places we have been. The food was good too.

Back at the hotel, we were sitting around when the earth moved for us. We were able to tick off another Japanese experience with a 4.5 magnitude earthquake centred 30km to the south of us. ( It only lasted for a couple of seconds but the place shook. Apparently there was another at the same spot an hour later but was only magnitude 3.0 so didn’t feel it. I wonder if the earthquake caused any avalanches.

A bit light on for walking today with only 4751 steps.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019, Skiing | Leave a comment

Here Little Monkey …

Today is sort of a rest day or at least a rest day from skiing. We have a day trip to the Jigokudani Monkey Park which is home to the Snow Monkeys. Our bus left the Hakuba Base Camp at 815am so it was still an early start to the day. It was then an hour and a half drive to Jigokudani Onsen. Our guide, John, is an expat Californian who has been in Japan for 31 years and in this area for 13 years. He spoke the whole way on the local area, customs and what it is like to live in the area.

One of the many facts we learned was the monuments that seemed to be in every farm plot are actually the family plots for departed relatives in that family. So rather than a central cemetery, they are everywhere. Once a year the families come back to worship their ancestors. Related to that is Japan has an ageing population and much of the farm land actually lays idle as they old folks aren’t capable to farm and the young ones have all left for the big cities.

John moved into the area for a tree change but was soon coaxed into leasing some land to farm with the local oldies teaching him what to do.

If a family line finishes with the death of the occupants, the the local council will take over the property. You can rent these properties from the council for $50 a month and if you can stick it out for 10 years, improving the property and farming the land then the property becomes yours. Apparently there are a lot of vacant houses and land from the death of family lines.

The farms are only very small and this method of agriculture appears very inefficient but I guess it gives the large population jobs if they want them. The area around Nagano is famous for its chestnuts and apples. I tried one of their very large apples and it was both tasty and juicy. Later in the day I tried some chestnut icecream that was also tasty.

We eventually arrived at the Monkey Park. It was then a 2 km walk up a path to the monkey onsen which was compacted snow / ice. I managed to slip over once on the way up and twice on the way down.

The reason that the monkeys have their own onsen was that they used to frequent the Lodge Onsen that was nearby and apparently monkeys and humans don’t mix all that well in the water, so a seperate onsen was built for the monkeys and they were encouraged to visit that one with food. There is still 5 stubborn old moneys that still like the human one.

This clan of monkeys around 200 and don’t seem to be worried by the thousands of visitors every day. It hasn’t always been the case but since feeding the monkeys by visitors has been stopped the bad and aggressive behavior has stopped as well.

When we arrived there were monkeys scattered all over, in the river, on snow banks, on cliffs, in trees but only a few in the onsen which was surrounded by people with all sorts of cameras and lens. One of the highlights was when a monkey was on the edge drinking from the onsen, another came from behind and pushed it in then hid among the legs of the visitors hiding. The wet monkey got out of the water and was looking everywhere for the one that pushed it in.

There was a lot of foraging for food, grooming and just wandering around. We had about an hour at the onsen which went very quickly but still managed over 400 photos. Of course, just as we were about to leave the Rangers started throwing out barley on the snow which perked up all the monkeys. Only got to observe a little of this as it was a 40 minute walk back to the bus on the ice. It was well worth the visit but you need to have more time to observe the monkeys.

It was then into a little village called Obuse for lunch. We were taken to a tourist area not unlike Hahndorf and treated to a traditional Japanese meal. It was a main course of Beef or Fish served with rice, miso soup, salad, dessert and a sample of sake. It was both tasty and filling. We then had a little time to improve the financial aspect of the village at the various little shops. One of the shops, Alexs Country Store, provided free tastings of sake and wine with a plan to selling you something. Bradley and Jenny obliged.

It was then into Nagano to visit the Zenkoji Temple. Even though we have visited a few temples on our trip, the guided tour provided a lot more information than if we had just visited. After checking out the temple for an hour, it was time to head back to Hakuba return just on dusk around 540pm. I would recommend this day trip to anyone in the area.

The hotel shuttle was waiting for us and we had enough time to go inside, grab stuff and back on the shuttle to the Main Street of Echoland to try out another restaurant.

Tonight, we selected Hige Cafe which specialised in food in sticks. Not a lot of English was spoken in here and our group of 12 overwhelmed them a bit. I could only stay for half an hour so grabbed a few sticks and headed to Samarai Kebab for the 3rd time. I had organised a Geocaching Event, “Firesafe goes Skiing” (GC82F4W) and there was actually one other geocacher in town who attended. He is from Germany but now lives and works at a mine in Emerald, Queensland. His caching name is Georode. We chatted for a lot longer than I had anticipated but it was a good event even if it was very small.

After the kilometre walk to the hotel, it was time for a soak in the Onsen again. I had the place to myself at 830pm but I could only last 30 minutes.

Back to skiing tomorrow hopefully, given there is a weather forecast of heavy rain.

Picked up on the walking with 12974 steps today.

Posted in Family Life, Geocaching, Holidays, Japan 2019, Skiing | Leave a comment

Hakuba47 today and sunshine …

We opened the curtains this morning to blue skies. This will be a good day for skiing. We had decided on Hakuba47 / Goryu Ski Fields today, so after another cooked breakfast it was onto the shuttle for only a 20 minute ride to the Escal Plaza ticket office. There were no deals today for tickets in fact they charged Y500 deposit on the tickets so that you would return them at the end of the day. Tickets were Y5000 for adults and Y4000 for seniors so it was a Y20000 day including the deposits.

First lift up again was a gondola but this time there was no snow or fog. The first few runs were great with fresh powder from yesterday and last nights falls but it didn’t take long before the runs were filling up with skiers and boarders. After yesterdays weather, everyone that was skiing in Hakuba must of been on these fields.

We got in some good long runs then started exploring the mountain over 3 linked ski fields – Goryu, Hakuba47 and Iimori. Towards 2pm the runs were getting very chopped up and rather than getting an injury, I called it a day after 12 runs and 21.72 km of skiing. It was a sweaty day and I could have sworn the temperature must have gone over double digits but found out it only reach 4C. We must be getting acclimated to the cold. How are we going to cope when we get to Singapore and home with temps in the 30’s at the end of the week.

Onto the 315pm shuttle back to the hotel and I was into the onsen by 4pm. Being an hour earlier made a difference as I had it to myself although I could hear a bit of chatter in the female side. I got to 30 minutes and that was enough. This time when I rinsed off, I turned the water temperature right down and used a tepid shower to bring my temperature down.

Everyone had decided that the Samurai Kebab was worth a second visit so the shuttle driver dropped us off for another great meal. It was another walk back to the hotel but it seemed a little colder than last night and it was -5C, a lot colder. Managed a few more steps today with 8312.

Tomorrow we are off to the snow monkeys.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019, Skiing | Leave a comment

Its all foggy and snowing …

We awoke to Bixby alarm telling us it was snowing so opened the curtains and she was right, it was snowing. In fact it didn’t let up all day, just the intensity from light to dumping.

A nice cooked breakfast at the hotel then we were on the 815am shuttle bus to Iwatake Ski Field. I think we must have taken every street as it took 45 minutes to get there. The bus was chockers with these flip down seats that fill the aisle when all the other seats are taken.

The snow was coming down hard but there was no wind so it felt not too cold but it was 4C. One thing about Japan, once you turn 50, you become a Senior and get reduced lift tickets. So we were going to get 2 adults (Y4400 each) and 2 seniors (Y3900 each) when the girl said it is cheaper to buy a package with 4 adult tickets so instead of paying Y16600 we payed Y14400 which worked out at Y3600 each.

First lift up was to the top of the mountain in a gondola. Looked great out the windows with the snow falling then half way up the fog came in as well and visibility was down to 50 metres. When we got to the top the visibility dropped to 20 metres.

A green run to warm the legs up was chosen but due to poor signage and no visibility we struggled to find it. We found a run that we thought was it but as we were headed down, jumps and slides appeared out of the fog. We were in the terrain park. It wasn’t too bad if you dodged the obstacles so we kept on this for a while. There was no one else on it so the lift was our own. The lifties have little straw vrooms and sweep the powder snow off the seat before you sit down. Very civilised.

It was time for a break and hopefully allow the fog to lift. It even wasn’t easy finding a 2 storey building on the summit but got it in the end. The fog ws getting worse so we headed down to where the fog wasn’t too bad and did a lot of 1 km runs including some through the trees.

In the afternoon the snow was still heavy and the fog didn’t lift and we headed back up the top following behind other skiers and getting to know the humps and bumps and got in some long 3.3km runs.

We called it a day around 3pm but missed the shuttle so hung around until the 4pm shuttle which didn’t take the same route back as most of us were going to the same hotel so he dropped us off first then dropped off the others.

It was then time to try another Japanese experience, the onsen. Oak Forest Hotel has their own onsen and it is very much traditional. That is there is a male and female onsen and it is very much naked, no bathers. If it is OK for the Japanese then it is OK for me. You walk through the door to find a changing room / locker room. You place all your clothing in a locker, take the key then take your little 30cm x 30cm towel into the washing area.

First thing is to sit on this little stool thing with 10 others doing the same, rinse off with a bamboo container of hot water and then wash your body all over. Rinse off all the soap and then you can go into the “bath” which is like a large spa pool without the bubbles. Mineral hot water is constantly coming in from a pipe and the water temperature is 39C. You cant see a lot in here because of the steam from the bath and from the showering. As I have a cold at the moment, the steam wasn’t doing my lungs too well, so it was time to venture out into the outside bath.

I grabbed my little towel, not too worried about modesty at this time, opened the door and bang, it was below zero so the cold just hit you. Lowering into the water, it felt hotter and it was, 41C. The best part was that the snow was falling on your heat while you sat in the water.

When I got to 35 minutes, it was definitely time to get out. It was back into the showering area to rinse off then to the locker room to dry off and put the Yukata (casual kimono) back on and head back to the room.

I then got into the shower and turn the cold water on to try and lower my body temperature. One good thing about the onsen is that my back, knees, thighs and calves did not have any aches. I will be back in it tomorrow night.

The hotel provides a shuttle to eating spots at 6pm each night. We asked the driver for a suggestion and he said Samurai Kebab so why not. It was in a basement of a building and it was like a sports bar but instead of wings they did kebabs and variations of it. The meals were cheap, plentiful and tasty. The kids even did a 3 litre Heineken beer tower. It was a good night out. There was no shuttle back so it was a kilometre walk back up the hill with snow still falling and the roads icing up. There were a few slips but no injuries

It wasn’t a bad days skiing given the conditions with 13 runs for a total of 24.07 km and additionally 7874 steps.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019, Skiing | Leave a comment

Snow here we come …

Our final train rides today on the Japanese Rail system. It has been great riding the trains, in particular the Shinkansens. Our first ride would also be the last Shinkansen trip from Kyoto to Nagoya on Hikara 464. Top speed today was 280 kph but it was a 16 car train.

It was short lived on the Shinkansen with a 35 minute ride then it was a train change at Nagoya onto the Wide View Shinano to Matsumoto. This train was only half the speed of the Shinkansen but travelled through some picturesque countryside which reminded us of travelling through the Rocky Mountains in California. We were on this train for 2 hours and started up into the mountains.

Our next transfer was at Matsumoto Station and we had 6 minutes to do it from Platform 2 to Platform 6. It meant going up steps but we were lucky enough for the elevator to just arrive as we got off then run across the top of the platforms to the next elevator down. Others in the group weren’t going to wait for the elevators to get them so they ran the stairs with baggage. We all managed to get on but were spread over 3 carriages. This was the Oito Line from Matsumoto to Shinano-Omachi and took 54 minutes. We all managed seats for this train.

We had one more transfer at Shinano-Omachi, still remaining on the Oito Line through to Hukuba. Luckily the train stopped at Platform 3 and our next train was waiting on Platform 4. This was on adjoining platforms so it was a 20 metre changeover onto the 2 carriage train and we had 5 minutes to do it. It was about half full but we all managed a seat in the same carriage. This final train was a 40 minute ride getting higher into the mountains with snow becoming more prevalent.

The closer we got to Hakuba, I went up the front to see the drivers view and the railway tracks just could be in the snow and we were clearing as we went. The snow was 1 to 2 metres deep the closer to Hakuba and all the farms were covered in metres of snow. Apparently the farmers become lifties during the winter season at the various ski fields until the snow starts to thaw.

We arrived at Hukuba Station to be met with a guy holding a sign and a bus to take us to the Hotel Oak Forest. There is plenty of snow around here on the streets with channels ploughed through where the roads are. There are a few traffic lights but not a lot and once you get out of the Main Street everything is spread out with modern hotels/hostels/lodges and a lot of very old ones too. Hotel Oak Forest was right at an end of a road at the base of the mountain and it was like we had gone back into the roaring 20’s. It was modern but built in the style of a 1920’s hotel. There was 1 floor of Western rooms and 2 floors of Japanese rooms with a Dining Room, Shop, Ski Room and Onsen (more on this tomorrow) on the ground floor.

Finally we had real beds that weren’t on the floor but the bathrooms were still Japanese which is OK.

After everyone was settled we walked down to Echoland which is the main shopping / eating / bar area near our Hotel. We were looking for somewhere to eat and as we had come accustomed to street food, our family settled on the food vans while the rest of the group headed off to a Western Pub. Our dining area was a hut with tables and chairs made out of sake crates but the food was great. The others had a normal pub meal but not at pub prices so were not too impressed.

It was back to the Hotel for a few drinks in rooms before hitting the hay. Only 9708 steps today but most of the day was spent on trains.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Lets visit a castle – Himeji Castle …

Today was going to be cold but we were not expecting snow as we went outside this morning. It snowed all the way to the train station but we were soon in the warmth of the Shinkansen Hikari from Kyoto to Himeji. The snow had stopped by the time we hit Himeji but it was still cold especially when the wind picked up.

When you walk out of the north exit of the Himeji Station, looking up the main boulevard and you see the majestic Himeji Castle. We are going to tour it but not before stopping in the Exchange Office. This is the department that organises the exchange program between Himeji and Blackwood High School.We met the Director and his off sider. They brought the kids copies of the reports that were put together for the trips that we they were part of. We also met up with one of our exchangees, Airi. She would spend the afternoon with us however her English seems to have gone backwards.

It was then off the Himeji Castle. The exchange office had organised tickets and when we got to the entrance, Airi organised an English speaking guide. It was interesting to hear the history of the building of the castle as well as the many innovative and simple ways the castle was built to defend an attacker that never came. The castle is over 400 years old which is older that settled Australia. The main keep is 7 stories tall and it is all timber with some full size trees used as the main columns holding the place up. They are 25 metres tall and have a circumference of 1 metre at the base.

Himeji is the oldest castle in Japan and one of 44 surviving castles out of 188 which used to stand. When the Shogun system ended and the Imperial government started, the Emperor ordered all castles to be demolished and 144 of them were. It has had a couple of renovations in recent years but it is primarily as it was built 400 years ago. It certainly made a difference having a guide to show us around.

As we left the castle, one of the chaperones from the exchange program when our kids were involved, Mika, turned up to see us. It has been good to meet the people (they are not kids anymore) that have been part of our kids and our lives over the years. Mika couldn’t stay long so we bid farewell and found a local ramen shop that specialised in the local Ekisoba. It was a good meal and what was needed on this cold day.

We farewelled Airi and back on the Shinkansen Hikari from Himeji to Kyoto. I tell you what, I could get used to this high speed travel.

Our final night in Kyoto and the hot water service decided it didnt want to work and I was so looking forward to a hot shower after the cold day. Back and forward with the owner but no solution and he would get someone out in the morning but too late for us.

A quiet day for walking today with only 11844 steps.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

Its Hollywood ….

Today we will be experiencing Hollywood with an Asian twist. We are headed to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. It involved some trains of course, taking the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka then the Kyoto Line Rapid Service to Osaka and finally the Osaka Loop Line to Universal City. The last train was a sardine can but almost all got off at Universal City. Looks like we have got the wrong day. It appears that today is the start of Spring Break with all the Universities on holidays. Given that today’s weather was to hit double figures, it looked like every student was here.

The entrance to Universal Studios looked like the others with the big globe with this being our sixth visit to now 3 different Universal Studios. The others being Universal California and Universal Florida. For Japan it is its 5th anniversary but they still have many of the “old” rides and shows. The movie “Backdraft” was released in 1991 but the show is still here.

We were told to head straight to the Harry Potter ride as the lines get very long later in the day. We were here only half an hour after opening and the line was already 3 hours long. No way we were standing in that so it was off to Jurassic Park where we were straight on using the singles line. This ride is another dated ride with the movie released back in 1993. Even the dinosaurs seem to show their age with not very smooth movements.

Jenny and the kids then lined up for 90 minutes for the “Flying Dinosaur” ride while I head off to do the less popular rides in “Backdraft“, “Spiderman” and “Terminator“. I have been through Backdraft a few times and it was the same except that Ron Howard and cast all spoke Japanese. The same was for Spiderman and Terminator.

We all joined up again for the midday “Waterworld” show where all the cast was Japanese except for the two main leads that were western but spoke Japanese. I need to watch the movie again even though it was released in 1995.

It was time for lunch and all the outlets were expensive for Japan but hey it is a theme park. We settled on various chicken, pork and corn meals at the Harry Potter Three Broomsticks restaurant. Jenny and the kids then headed off to join another line, this time for the “Hollywood Dream the Ride“, while I checked out some more of the shows, Monsters Live Rock and Roll, Curious George (definitely for younger kids) and Shrek 4D (very different with Japanese speaking).

We all got back together again and headed through Backdraft as Justin didn’t know the movie at all. After-all he was not born when it was released. The rides were starting to close due to the length of lines so we missed a couple. One last try for the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey“. The line was supposed to be 80 minutes but seemed to be moving reasonably quickly so we managed it in 60 minutes. As we exited, it was dark and the light show on the castle was underway. It is a 5 minute show projected onto the Harry Potter castles and run every 10 minutes. It is well worth it.

Universal City closed at 1900 and the throngs of people all headed to the train station. We were not sure we would make a train anytime soon but walked up to the very end and found a carriage that wasn’t as sardine as the others. This was the Osaka Loop line through to Osaka.

At Osaka it was decided to find a meal that was reasonably priced since lunch was very expensive. After checking out a number of restaurants and walking around in circles we found TGI Fridays for some western food which was good but ended up being expensive as they slapped a 10% surcharge for dining after 1700, on top of the normal 8% tax.

There were no trains from Osaka back to Kyoto so a quick one stop on the Kyoto Line to Shin-Osaka. We missed the last Shinkansen back to Kyoto by 2 minutes so caught the Special Rapid Service from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto.

Tickets for tomorrows train to Himeji procured then it was back to the accommodation for some well deserved rest. It was a long day and 22200 steps.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment

How many Torii Gates …

Today we were definitely going to get our fill of shrines and gates with a visit to the Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is a mountainside Shinto shrine dating back to 711 AD with a path leading up to Mt. Inari passing through 10000+ Torii Gates.

It took a short train ride of a couple of stops from Kyoto on the Nara Line to Inari Station. We knew we were at the right stop as the packed train emptied out and crossed the road to the shrine. Our Aussie friends were a couple of trains behind but didn’t take long to catch up on the path. The number of people at the shrine and on the path was enormous but the crowd thinned the higher the path went up the mountain.

The larger Shrine buildings were at the bottom of the mountain but the became smaller the higher you went up with lots of spots with multiple shrines. The Torii Gates were non stop pretty much all the way up and down. They were placed by businesses and farmers to pray for success. There are now 10000 all painted in vermilion red. Bradley even managed to find a monkey. We spent a couple of hours checking out the shrines and gates, making it to the summit then back down to the Main Shrine and street food alley that took you back into town. We sampled many different types of food, some of which I am not sure what it was but was tasty.

It was back on the Nara Line from Inari to Kyoto. The rest of the group headed off to Arashiyama to check out the bamboo forest. I headed off for a walk to the Kyoto Railway Museum. It was an amazing museum with steam trains ranging from the first ones used on the Japanese rail system then onto electric trains and even shinkansens. It is a big complex with crews maintaining and restoring trains as well. There was even an impressive working train set with many of the trains used now and in the past. They run a lottery to be able to drive a shinkansen driving simulator and I was lucky enough to win a drive.

Not much to it with brake off and throttle on and maintain speeds depending on where you are. Well I didn’t crash into anything so must have been OK. The others had made it back from the bamboo forest and were waiting for me at Kyoto Tower Starbucks. The museum closed at 530pm and even with 2.5 hours I didn’t get to see everything. While waiting for me, Bradley managed to find a massage salon just around the corner in the Daiwa Roynet Hotel that was reasonably priced. We all went for a massage with a full body massage for 60 minutes only costing Y3210. It certainly made a difference.

As Bradley and Rachael hadn’t been up in the Kyoto Tower, Jenny and Justin went up with them. I sat downstairs and had a Frappaccino. We were going to have pasta at a restaurant on the way back to the apartment but since they only took cash and we had exhausted our cash supply for the massages, we headed to 7/11 for some takeaway meals. What is it with the lack of credit card use in Japan. Back to the apartment to give the microwave a workout then off to bed.

Tomorrow we head to Osaka and Universal Studios. Record day for steps with 20954, 16.7km and 84 floors. That massage was definitely needed.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Japan 2019 | Leave a comment