Japan: Again

 Left: garden in Hiroshima. Right: Temple in Nara Park.

Left: garden in Hiroshima. Right: Temple in Nara Park.

 Both: Nara Park.

Both: Nara Park.

It feels like I can't be kept away from Japan. This trip was my second visit within 7 months, and I'm already looking at booking a third. This time I travelled with one of my closest friends, who is also named Rachel. You can find her YouTube here and her Instagram here. Rachel-Lee and I began our trip in Tokyo, went on to Osaka, then Hiroshima, and finally back to Tokyo.

 Shown: Hiroshima Castle and moat.

Shown: Hiroshima Castle and moat.

In a few weeks I will have edited together my Japan video, but that video won't really show the daily happenings during our trip, it will be a pretty travel video, so I thought I would blog my trip instead!

Our first day was spent in transit: Brisbane > Cairns > Tokyo.
After we arrived at Tokyo and were stuck on the tarmac for over an hour, we found our way to Shin-Okubo station to look for our Air BnB. In true Rachel style we got lost, because evidently neither of us are too skilled in the art of map reading (I can remember how to get places if I've been there once, but cannot easily locate myself, Google Maps will still get me lost). We walked to the wrong place first, and then after realising we were staring at a different facade to the one pictured in our emails, we figured out where we were actually meant to be going.

 Left: apartment block in Tarui. Right: Crepe fake food displays in Harajuku.

Left: apartment block in Tarui. Right: Crepe fake food displays in Harajuku.

Our first few days were spent in Tokyo, staying in a super tiny apartment (we thought it would be cool to see how people live like that, and I wanted to stay in Air BnBs so that I could cook my own food and stay eating Keto). Tokyo is one of my favourite cities in the world, and so I wanted to show Rachel-Lee around. We explored Shinjuku, Harajuku and Ueno, to name a few. I had to make sure to get her out to Shinjuku at night to see how truly spectacular all the lights are, and the sheer volume of people that were walking or cycling through. During our stay in Tokyo I filmed a casual PCOS vlog to show how I'm exercising and eating Keto while travelling, you will be able to find it on my channel within a couple of weeks (pre-filming and all that jazz).

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 Left: bike parking in Nara. Right: street in Hiroshima.

Left: bike parking in Nara. Right: street in Hiroshima.

A couple of days later we packed up our bags and headed to Osaka, and we are so thankful for the man that didn't speak English who helped us lift our heavy (*ugh camera gear*) bags onto the shelf above the seats, I had just trained and was not ready to make those lifts myself. We made a mistake when booking our Osaka accommodation (so many things were booked out by the time we got around to booking because we had both been so busy in the month leading up to this trip), and we accidentally booked somewhere that was about a 40 minute trip out from Namba (which is a subway-ride out of Osaka), so.. woops. And, the house we booked could sleep 14 people, woops again. 

We caught the Shinkansen from Tokyo station out to Osaka, jumped on a subway from Osaka to Namba, and then from Namba we travelled on the train all the way out to a tiny little place called Tarui. When we hopped off the train both of us remarked at stillness of the area, and how quiet is was. It was a stark, yet welcome contrast from the hustle of Tokyo. 

 Left: Instagram picture. Right: back street in Okubo.

Left: Instagram picture. Right: back street in Okubo.

By the time we arrived in Tarui it was getting late, and I had only eaten once that day because I was struggling to find food that didn't contain too many carbohydrates (the crazy girl who goes to Japan and doesn't eat a single grain of rice). So we dumped our bags at our accommodation and headed for a mall that Rachel-Lee saw just before our train stop. When we found it we were completely thrown. There was a giant damn mega-mall in what felt like the middle of nowhere to us. The town was so quiet, so empty, and it seemed that absolutely everyone was in this one giant mall. I'm not sure the last time I was in a shopping centre that was that big, or if I ever have been. 

We had a look around for some ideas to put towards our fashion week outfits, then went and grabbed some groceries and headed back. Rachel-Lee and I then realised that because we had only booked two nights in this place, that we were going to have to attempt to visit both Nara and Osaka the next day, because we wanted to see both.

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 Both: somewhere in Okubo.

Both: somewhere in Okubo.

After getting a proper night's rest for the first time in a few days we set off for Nara (I really just wanted to pet a deer). On our journey we knew we were running out of cash and had to find an ATM, an app that I would highly recommend for helping you find your ATMs in Japan faster (ones that won't eat your international card) is the Seven Bank ATM Navigation App. After looping around Namba locating an ATM we carried on through to Nara and explored the park and temple, AND I got to pet a deer. So that was my goal for the day accomplished. 

We decided to walk back to Nara station instead of catching the bus back, just incase we found any cool photo locations on our way back, and we did. We caught a 50 minute train from Nara into Osaka and got there by dinner time. I really wanted to take Rachel-Lee to a Japanese-style BBQ restaurant an old pal from school had recommended to me. I visited it Osaka briefly on my last trip and made a point to go to this restaurant, and since then I will tell everyone who goes to Osaka to go there: Yakiniku Rokko Shinsaibashi. Two hours all you can eat works out to be around 25AUD and the staff speak English, which is always a plus when you're ordering food and can only understand chunks of Japanese. 

Unfortunately it was booked out, so we walked around and ended up going to Danmai Red, which was more expensive, but still delicious, and had options that I could easily eat. I told Rachel-Lee to pick whichever restaurants she wanted to go to and I would adapt options to suit me, but she was always very considerate with where we'd go to eat. We then spent some more time wandering around Osaka before heading back to our accommodation. 

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 Left: car in Miyajima. Right: Instagram picture.

Left: car in Miyajima. Right: Instagram picture.

Because of our accommodation booking error we found ourselves on the move again the next day, this time to Hiroshima. We decided that this day we would take it easy, relax and slowly work our way there, rather than rushing and stressing like we did on our trip from Tokyo. We packed up at a leisurely pace and headed towards Shin-Osaka station.

When we got to Osaka Rachel-Lee went to grab her Railpass and noticed it was missing. (If you're unfamiliar with what a Railpass is, you book it prior to your trip to Japan and it will cover most JR trains and ferries, and you won't need to pay extra to reserve seats on the bullet trains when you are travelling between cities.)  A two-week railpass like we ordered is around 550AUD, so it's one of the last pieces of cardboard that you'd want to be losing, and that's exactly what Rachel-Lee had done. She was sure she left it in a plastic bag on the table of our last accommodation back in Tarui and it had gotten mixed up with the rubbish as we were cleaning before we left. 

 Shown: Sunset over Grand Torii Gate

Shown: Sunset over Grand Torii Gate

Rachel-Lee decided she was going to make the arduous two hour round-trip back to attempt to get it before the cleaner got there, and told me to go on to Hiroshima on my own so that I wasn't dragging my luggage around for an extra two hours. So we parted ways and I booked my seat on the Sakura train. It was about an hour and a half trip to get to Hiroshima, and I even managed to get my heavy bag of camera gear onto the shelf above the seats all on my own this time... and after all that, Rachel-Lee didn't find her Railpass.

I arrived in Hiroshima on a Saturday afternoon (during Golden Week) and grabbed a taxi to get to the next accommodation. Taxi's aren't cheap in Japan, but I knew the apartment wasn't too far from Hiroshima station, and at that point I preferred to pay 15AUD for a short cab ride rather than dragging my heavy bag around on another train. After arriving at the apartment I dumped my things, put on some relaxing music, grabbed some extra camera batteries and went out to explore and see what I could find. I ended up stumbling onto the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Hiroshima Castle.

 Left: inside the Shrine. Right: O-torii during daylight, as the tide began to come in.

Left: inside the Shrine. Right: O-torii during daylight, as the tide began to come in.

Exploring a city, watching the people, sensing the environment, listening to music and just observing through my camera is where I feel the most myself. I can flex my creativity whilst capturing peoples' interactions, watching the city breathe and feeling the steady hum of daily life in a new environment. This is where I am me, but not the 'me' most people know. How I look doesn't matter, I'm not on the internet, I'm not distracted, and I'm not stressed. At those points I can define myself by what my eyes see, and how I can look at things in a new light. There is no weight of expectation, I can just see, and capture. 

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 Left: Deer. Right: Grand Torii Gate during sunset.

Left: Deer. Right: Grand Torii Gate during sunset.

Wake up. Exercise. Eat. Standard morning for me, but on Sunday it was followed by jumping on a subway and then a train out to Miyajimaguchi station to catch a ferry over to Itsukushima Island. Rachel-Lee and I arrived at the island and noticed it was low tide, so after a quick google we found out that sunset was 6:59pm, and the highest point in the tide was 7:30pm. PERFECT. I decided I wanted to stay to capture the 16.8m tall Grand Torii Gate while the bottom of it was surrounded by water, and the sun was setting.

To kill some time before that we walked around the island (I decided to pat every deer that came somewhat near me), checked out the stalls, and made our way over to the aquarium. Neither of us are comfortable with zoos, so we were hoping the aquarium wasn't too bad for the animals, unfortunately we left feeling quite unsettled about the extremely small tank sizes some of the animals were in, so we wouldn't recommend visiting this aquarium if that sort of thing also makes you feel uneasy.

 Both: Instagram pictures.

Both: Instagram pictures.

We paid the 3AUD entry to the shrine to walk through the structure. I ended up finding my ideal photo spot where the setting sun backlit O-torii, as the contrast between the sky and the dark structures engulfed the Gate and made it and the shrine appear as though they were black, sitting above the sea. We sat for an hour in the shrine slowly watching the ocean begin to lap away at more and more of the sand. Just as the tide was getting to an incredible height, swallowing the pile-ons the shrine was built on we were told it was closing and we had to leave, so I grabbed my last shot, the one I had been waiting for.

We quickly left the shrine and headed up to the hill overlooking the gate to attempt to get some more footage of it before the sun set too much. I am not entirely sure why, but when I got up there and saw the rippling water, the shadowed mountains, and the top of the Grand Torii Gate cradling the setting sun in it's curved edge I felt very moved and wasn't sure whether I was in love or about to cry. The french woman next to me who gasped, "C'est Magnifique!" obviously felt the same way too. It was a very special place to be.

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 Left: wild rabbit. Right: Ocean view from Okinoshima Island.

Left: wild rabbit. Right: Ocean view from Okinoshima Island.

Jump forward to 6:00am the next day. My alarm goes off and I awaken in a panic so as not to wake up Rachel-Lee, as we've both only had 5 hours sleep after a long night of emails, and editing photos and videos. I get some work done and then plan our route to Okinoshima Island (also known as 'the rabbit island'). I decided that from Hondori subway stop, which was the closest to us, we would get to Shin-Hakushima station, and then to Hiroshima. At Hiroshima we would jump on a shinkansen to Mihara station, and then change to the local train bound for Hiro on the Kure line. After all these train trips we'd take a short walk to the ferry and catch the ferry across to Okinoshima, so we had to leave soon because apparently it's best to see the rabbits in the morning.

The first part of our journey was running flawlessly, and then we had to wait an hour for the shinkansen... and then we had to wait an hour for the local train on the Kure line... and then the ferry arrived as we hopped off the train and we had to wait TWO HOURS for the ferry because it was a weekday. If you're planning on visiting this island do it on a weekend because there will be more frequent ferries to get you over there. With time to kill we went to the Family Mart to buy cabbage to feed the rabbits, bought five bags of rabbit food from the ferry stop (do not buy less than this or you'll run out so quickly), and I did some exercise to pass the time.

 Left: Cliff on Okinoshima island. Right: Wild rabbits.

Left: Cliff on Okinoshima island. Right: Wild rabbits.

If you have a whole day to sacrifice Okinoshima is definitely worth the trip. Any less than a whole day to attempt to get this done would be a logistical nightmare, unless you stayed on the island overnight at the hotel to see the rabbits early. Due to the fact that we weren't able to get there until mid-afternoon and the ferry services stop running early we didn't get to explore the island on a hire bike (around 6AUD) like we wanted to, but we got to play with the wild rabbits, and we went for a brief walk along the coastline of the island. The rabbits are tame enough that they'll come and eat straight out of your hand, and if you go past the office, and follow the boardwalk around you'll find rabbits that don't get as much attention as the ones at the ferry dock, so they will come running up to try and grab some food from you.

Thankfully the return journey back to Hondori station was much quicker, although this was aided by the fact that we ran from the ferry to the train. We had five minutes between the ferry docking and the train departing from Tadanoumi station back to Mihara and a countdown timer ticking down on Rachel-Lee's phone. It felt like we were in The Amazing Race, bags swung around to the front of us to avoid anything falling out, no cares given about how tired we were, just running to save ourselves an extra hour in transit. On the way back we agreed that it was time for a quiet night in catching up on more work, so we stopped by the grocery store on our way back to our accommodation, cooked up some hearty meals and got our work (and laundry!) done by a reasonable hour.

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 Both: details from Okinoshima.

Both: details from Okinoshima.

Tuesday morning. It's our last day in Hiroshima. The Peace Memorial Park opens at 8:30am and we did't have to check out until 11:00am, so we decided to visit, after days of it slipping out of our schedule. If you ever end up in Hiroshima, please go to the Peace Memorial Park. It will be nothing short of a life-changing experience for you. You will feel guilt that doesn't belong to you, and sadness for people you have never known. Both Rachel-Lee and I left utterly speechless and unable to do anything but sit in the shade of the large trees on the outskirts of the park. If you do decide to visit, do it on a day where you don't have much else on, because it will feel like you are dragging a heavy blanket with you wherever you go for at least a few hours after going through the museum. Humans can be awful.

After returning back and lying on the bed at our accommodation (and eating cheese) I dragged myself out of the comfortable sheets and grabbed my bags and Rachel-Lee and I headed off to Hiroshima station again. Most of this day was spent travelling, until we arrived back in Shinjuku at around 6pm.

 Both: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Both: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

We unpacked a little at the new place we were staying, and then I decided I needed to take Rachel-Lee out to experience Shibuya (in particular, the crossing) at night. It wasn't as busy as I had seen it previously, but it was definitely far busier than any pedestrian crossing in Australia gets. We had a fairly relaxed night, of Rachel-Lee eating crepes, browsing the shops around Shibuya, and constantly having my camera stuck to my face to try and get night footage for my Japan video.

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 Shown: Shibuya Crossing at night

Shown: Shibuya Crossing at night

The next few days in Tokyo were spent cruising around to try and get more footage and photos, because we had been lacking from being so busy. We also made a trip out to Roppongi to visit the The National Art Center Tokyo and look at the exhibits that were on. I'm looking forward to showing you guys the video from my trip on my YouTube channel, but for now I'll just leave you with the rest of these photos.

I hope you enjoyed my very first post on this blog.

R.

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 Both: Instagram pictures

Both: Instagram pictures

 Both: Instagram pictures

Both: Instagram pictures

 Shown: Street in Roppongi

Shown: Street in Roppongi

 Left: Go-to makeup while travelling. Right: Instagram picture

Left: Go-to makeup while travelling. Right: Instagram picture