We spend our time in Japan, out all day, training around and eating ourselves silly. I loved waking up every morning, having a milk tea and a Mr Donut, then catching a train to the city. We would do some sightseeing, have a yummy lunch, and try and meet our friends in the
evenings for dinner. It was hectic to try and meet up with everyone, but we were able to see the majority of people we had wanted to. We had packed suitcases to the brim (all four of them) and were finally ready to head back to Beijing. I think we spent our
final day in Japan the same way we spent it last summer - with some rowing on the lake, some deer feeding in Nara park, and a couple of hours of karaoke. And seriously, there couldn't have been any other way to finish our time in Japan. I love rowing on the lake in Nara Park.
Especially in April, there are very few people there yet, and the deer are still hungry. We took some photos in the deer park that were identical to the ones we took on our final day in Japan last time. I know when we return we will have to take the same photos. We found a group of deer to pose with, and take amazing "Snow White" photos with too, which added to the fun. Eventually we had to leave, and as we left the gates of Nara Park, I remember crying just like I did when we moved home - and knowing that I would return, no matter what.
Kobe Harbour is another one of those nostalgia views, that I hope I remember for all of my life. I'm pretty sure all of Japan is like that for me. But we stopped down there, just to sit on a bench and admire the view and the cool buildings, just like the old times.
We tried to spend a little bit of time in all of the cities in Kansai, so we were off next to Kobe. Kobe still conjurs up memories of winter illuminations, and great Chinese food. Sadly, the illuminations weren't on til November, so we started with a walk through China town to grab
some food. Back in the autumn, I had seen posters advertising the fall colours at the top of Mount Rokko, this mountain near Kobe. Since I never went when I lived in Japan, we figured it was a good thing to do, especially as all we had to do was ride a bus.
Well, first a bus, and then a cute little funicular to the top of the mountain. At the top of the mountain,there was a great view over the city, and then a bus to take you around the top. All we could find was a very, very expensive botanical gardens, and then an extortionate music box museum, so we set off on a little path up the mountain. We found all sorts of great sakura trees and funny wild boar signs. Thankfully, we didn't see any wild boars, but we did see
lots of sakura, and enjoy the pretty views. It was nice then, to just sit on a bench in the countryside and wait for the bus to take us back down to the bustling city.
We never went to Kyoto very much when we lived in Japan, but we figured we needed to go, at least once just for an afternoon. I always found Kyoto much too touristy, and always a pain to go through the train station! However, it is full of lots of pretty shrines! I hadn't really spent any time
in Gion, so we decided to walk up and down the little streets and see what we could find. We found some cheap tickets to see the traditional dance and music show that was on at the Gion Theatre, so we went to that too! We did a little shopping afterwards, getting quite lost down all the shopping arcades, but finding the best thing ever - our favourite tonkatsu shop EVER, which was one of those places that I thought we would never, ever find again. Origionally, our engagement photographer had suggested the place, and gave us
good instructions, but we couldn't even remember the name of it, so it was amazing to come across it again! Afterwards, we got some ice cream at thirty one, and walked past more cute, lantern filled shrines on the way to the train home!
In all the years Josh lived in Horyuji, the cute little part of Nara, I never went to the famous temple with him. It's super famous, especially in Kansai for having the oldest pagota in Japan. One day, Lonna, Josh and I went over there....it was raining a little but it did clear up after a while. It is part of a huge complex, with walls and side temples, which likely means it was a very important place back in the day. It was really pretty, and Josh, after training all his students to give tours in English here, was the perfect tour guide!
I am super blessed to have great friends in Japan. Because we visited Kansai, most of the friends we ended up seeing while we were in Japan were Josh's JET friends. But on Sunday, Lonna came all the way up from Yamaguchi to see me. It must have cost her a bomb, but it was so so so wonderful to see her smiling face and talk about old times again! We had a great time in Osaka, wandering around and doing some serious shopping!
Todaiji Temple in Nara Park tends to be one of the places we used to go when our parents were in town, or someone was visiting. David said we all needed to go in, one last time. So we paid, and took some photos outside. Going in was great too. I had
forgotten how big and impressive it was inside. In the temple, at the bottom of one of the pillars, is a cutout the same size as the Daibutsu, or Buddah's nostril. And while the Buddah in the temple is huge, his nostril isn't really that big! David, as always tried to get through the Daibutsu's nostril. He almost made it too, and had two attempts. I knew I could fit, having done it before, but had to wait a while until I was able to work up the nerve to try again. After waiting in a line full of little children, who would definitely make it,
it was my turn. I managed to wriggle my way through, getting a nice bruise on my knees as a result, but was rewarded with a year of good luck! After 20 years of living in Japan the first time, it was a great way to finish out my time I had in Japan!
To be fair, the Sakura were the main drive to go back to Japan in the middle of April. But it was great to hang out with the friends who we stayed with, and visit with our JET friends who still were in Nara and Osaka. In the mornings, we tended to go to Nara Park....we ended up there tons of time
over our stay. Mainly because the weather was so sunny and nice, we took nice long walks near the musesums, feeding the deer, before wandering into the town to have Shabu Shabu, tonkatsu, or to spend afternoons at Karaoke. What I loved the best was recreating some of our favourite photos. I hadn't planned on taking the photos again, but since Josh's brother David was with us, we were able to get them! I think being back in Japan was really good for my soul. London is a great city to live in, but it doesn't provide
the same day-to-day excitement that living in Japan did. And so, being back, we were able to speak Japanese, travel on the trains, and eat out favourite foods. It was great being back in the places where I remember being happiest.
After Osaka Aquarium, we walked around a little, and shopped a little at the Ghibli store, before having a nice dinner together. The next day, David, Josh and I went to our favourite place - Nara Park, to see if, by chance, we had managed NOT to miss the Sakura, which were a little late this year.
There were a few trees out and about, so we were able to get some great photos! We went around, and fed all the deer. It was sunny and lovely, and full of people, all happily taking photos of the sakura. We even were able to find one of the pretty fluffy pink sakura trees too!
After flying home from Florida, I spent a single night in my flat in London before turning around and flying over to Japan! Although I flew from London and Josh from Frankfurt, we managed to arrange it so that we met up in Beijing airport, and were able to sit and fly together from there to Osaka.
It was a trip we booked on a whim really, and I was just so excited that we were finally going back! Josh's brother David was almost up on his deployment to Japan, and his Mom was over visiting from Florida, we they also came down to Osaka. After a first lazy day, we headed over one morning to Osaka Aquarium. It still is one of my favourite aquariums in the world!
We had a really nice time, looking at the cool squids and puffer fish, but of course, I love the whale sharks best of all! It was so nice to be back in Japan, and start our time out there right. To be honest, it felt like we had never left!