As Moon Tan’s last hurrah before heading back to Oz, we took a trip to Osaka and Nara. Osaka has a different feel to Tokyo. The people really do seem friendlier, and there’s a nice buzz about the place without the slightly stressed vibe of Tokyo.

This is Moon Tan out the front of the Osaka Aquarium. It lives up to the hype: it’s massive, and interesting, and there’s penguins, both real and electric.

Moon Tan loves penguins.

I love these guys. And as an added educational bonus, we learned how to tell the difference between boy stingrays and girl stingrays! (It’s not as straightforward as you’d think.)

For the life of me I cannot remember what kind of animal these guys are. I think they might come from Indonesia? Perhaps Moon Tan can enlighten us in the comments.

Did I mention that there were penguins? Luckily they were behind glass, so Moon Tan couldn’t steal one.

Okay, I have to stop myself from posting a million photos of fish. But suffice to say there’s a lot to see, and the cool thing about it is that the tanks are quite deep, and are arranged so that the path spirals down around them, so you get different perspectives on the same group of animals as you descend.

We did other stuff in Osaka (sampled some okinomiyaki and some excellent kobe beef, walked the old quarter at night), but the aquarium was probably the highlight.

Osaka: it’s okay!

Autumn in Ueda

In November last year we took a quick trip north to Ueda, Nagano, and I’m just now getting around to uploading the photos…

We were very lucky to have a local guide with us: my Japanese teacher, who lives in Ueda. She set us up in a great Ryokan for the evening, and then took us to see the local sights, including a beautiful shrine up in the hills that was off the beaten path and that few tourists would ever see…

Hokkaido Part 3

Furano is a farming area smack-bang in the middle of Hokkaido. It’s also one of the most picturesque places in the world. It’s hard to take a bad photo here (although after I mucked around with the white balance settings on my camera, somehow I managed). These are a few that turned out okay.

Moon Tan and I have been bad bloggers recently. Further updates soon, including the final Hokkaido installment; autumn leaves in Nagano; under the sea at Osaka; and getting eaten by deer at Nara…


Hokkaido Part 1

Hokkaido is my new favourite place. It’s like the Tasmania of Japan. All delicious food and stunning countryside. Made me almost sad to come back to our urban cave in Tokyo (almost — but then I remembered Tokyo is where computer games live).

The photos below are from our first day, which we spent driving down to Lake Toya.

If you like really long tunnels, then you will love Hokkaido. Also if you like crabs:

Moon Tan spies a delicious-looking goat in yonder field. Lunch!

Luckily for the goat, Moon Tan then spied an even more delicious-looking ice cream.

The goat is safe… for today.

This shetland pony was seriously grumpy. Maybe it was hungover from drinking with Wild Horse? He didn’t say it, but I could tell that he really wanted to bite my hand.

Lake Toya is actually a gigantic caldera, and there’s still a lot of active volcanoes in the area.

We stayed in a backpackers hostel right on the bank of the lake (near the house with the red roof in the photo above). The hostel was clean and quiet, and the only slight complaint was that we both had the unshakeable feeling that we were going to be murdered in our sleep by the owner. In the event, of course, we weren’t. Still, even the inspiring the feeling that guests will be murdered in their sleep is something that an accommodation provider should try to avoid, in my view. I give the hostel a rating of 7/10.

Lake Toya is a nice place.

An evening in Odaiba

Yesterday was ‘Marine Day’ in Tokyo. Neither Tamago nor I know what this is about but it means that Tamago had a long weekend and I didn’t have to work Monday morning – yay! To celebrate, Tamago and I decided to go to Odaiba on Sunday night.

We took the Yamanote line out to Shimbashi and then changed to the Yurikamome which is something between a monorail and a train. The Yurkiamome ride gave us spectacular views of Odaiba and some impressive Tokyo skyrise.

When we got to Odaiba we headed for what passes as a ‘beach’ in Tokyo. Happily we stumbled across the annual Festival of Seaside Lights which happens every Marine Day long weekend! This year’s theme was in support of Tokyo’s bid to host the Olympics in 2020. I wish we could say that careful planning went into this but it was just beautiful serendipity at work.


From the beach. That's the Rainbow Bridge.


Feeling jolly after a few drinks on the water's edge.

Yes. There is a replica of the Statue of Liberty at Odaiba. No. We don't know why.

They gave people lighters and everyone helped to light the candles. Even kids!


Odaiba Festival of Seaside Lights: highly recommended

Kanmangafuchi Abyss

[Part II of our Golden Week travel blog extravaganza…]

Following our trip to Miura, we came back through Tokyo and continued North to Nikko. It was a glorious day in the mountains. We explored the temple area having obtained some amazing walking tour instructions from one of the friendly staff at the Nikko Park Lodge where we were staying (highly recommended, though one of the other dudes there is quite grumpy).

At dusk, we arrived at the Kanmangafuchi Abyss, a gorge that runs down behind the Imperial Villa. We had the place almost to ourselves, and it was breathtakingly beautiful.


These are the bakejizo (ghost statues). It’s said that if you count them as you walk along to the gorge, and then count them as you return, you’ll never get the same count — one of them will have ‘disappeared’ for the return journey. We counted 76 on the way in, then realised that we hadn’t actually taken in any of the amazing scenery because we were too busy counting. We didn’t bother checking on the way back, so we can neither confirm nor deny this myth. Our Mythbusters assessment: “Plausible”. (It’s a pretty spooky place, and a lot of monks are buried there).


The Kanmangafuchi Abyss: highly recommended to get away from the Nikko crowds, and spectacular at dusk.