Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hakone, Kyoto and Nara

I'm writing this well after we returned from our trip to Japan.  We just got so busy on our trip that I didn't have the energy to blog while I was there!  I'll just recap a few of the highlights from each place we visited to give you an idea of what we did.

On our last day in Hakone we took a quick trip up to Owakudani, a live volcano with a ropeway that takes you to the summit.  The weather was pretty bad, so unfortunately we couldn't see Mt. Fuji, but the views were still pretty amazing and it was really neat to see all the stabilizing work they are doing on the mountain on the way up:
On the way up the mountain.
Sulfurous pools at the top.  The water is hot!
Once at the top you can get an Onsen Egg (or several) which are basically hard-boiled eggs cooked in the onsen water at the top of the mountain.  The sulfur in the water turns the eggshell black.
James is so excited, he needs to be reminded to peel the egg first!
 After exploring the summit of the mountain we headed back down and started to make our way to Kyoto.  We got into Kyoto later in the evening and scored some closing-time bentos for a total of 800 yen at a shop nearby the hotel.  Yum!

On our first day in Kyoto we visited Nijojo (Nijo Castle), which isn't really a castle but more of a complex consisting of the old Imperial Palace and some higher ground with towers, where the castle used to be.  We explored the grounds for a while and then headed to Osaka to meet up with Aki and Michiko, who are friends of my parents.  The way they met is a little serendipitous; my parents were visiting Osaka and looking at a map trying to figure out where the museum they were headed to was.  They happened to be standing outside Aki's business, so he came outside to help them with directions.  Then he invited my parents over for dinner and the rest is history!  I think this is more common in Japan than in places like North America, and it's a really wonderful experience to have.  If you are going to Japan look out for locals who will befriend you, and take them up on their hospitality!

We went to Nara and visited the deer park, where we fed the deer some Shika Sempei (Deer Crackers).  Then we walked to Todaiji Temple, which has a giant Buddha statue that is well renowned in Japan.  After all this it was time to head to Aki's house for an okonomiyaki party!  We ate so much food we were completely stuffed.

Homemade okonomiyaki, Osaka style.
In front of Todaiji Temple.
Aki, Michiko, James, Me, and a Random Photobomber
At our okonomiyaki party with Obaa-chan.
Nodoka-chan, Aki, James and I.
More on our time in Kyoto, Himeji, and Hiroshima in my next post.  Stay tuned!