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Japan

December 2015

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We visited Edo's uncle Hans and Hiromi in Fukuoka and then traveled with Hans for a week through the Kyushu peninsula, visiting places like Nagasaki, Kumamoto, and Dazaifu. After a week traveling together, we said goodbye to Hans & Hiromi and took a bullet train to Kyoto and Nara to see the amazing historical sites there in the gorgeous autumn colours.

After our arrival in Fukuoka, Hans takes us to one of his favourite fish restaurants called Chikae. It happens to be located right across the street from our AirBNB apartment, how convenient!
The food is all fish and seafood, but boy is it varied! And delicious as well
Good company
Large fish tanks in the middle of the restaurant set the scene
Fukuoka, Chikae restaurant
Filled fish shaped pastry
Explaining the local taxi uncle the way to our apartment
Birthday boy toasting with Hans & Hiromi
Oh, and we have some presents for you...
Fukuoka, Maizuru Park
Old wooden gate
Autumn colours everywhere
Most modern toilets in Japan have this type of wall control unit. Hilarious images: men will be 'sprayed' to the left while women will be 'bidetted' to the right...;P #lostintranslation
Crossing Naka River
Simple and wholesome meal with great taste again
The foot massage & exercise track at Oohori Park
Taking the train. Vie finding her way around the ticketing machines at the Fukuoka railway station. There's no 'switch to English' button to be found so...
8 lines of Engrish copy, that's it. Good luck tourists! Once you understand that the whole ticket buying process starts with dropping some (any) coins into the slot, then you quickly understand the next steps as well. It's all deduction dear Watson!
Taking the Tenjin-Omuta Line to Dazaifu. Hmmm... is this the correct one?
Dazaifu. From the train station it is a short walk to the historical sites that Dazaifu is famous for.Lined with souvenir shops, this is clearly a popular Japanese/Asian travel destination. Hardly any Westerners in sight.
Kōmyōzen-ji is a Zen temple famous for its stone garden. It was once the chief Buddhist temple on Kyūshū and houses a number of historical, artistic, and religious treasures.
Dazaifu
Dazaifu
This is also a popular marriage location; nearly every day you can witness marriages here
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Dazaifu
Lining up to pay their dues to the priests
Dazaifu
Evening view from our AirBNB apartment window in Fukuoka
On the road again! The trams in Nagasaki look a bit outdated
Dejima was a small fan-shaped artificial island built in the bay of Nagasaki in 1634 by local merchants. This island remained as the single place of direct trade and exchange between Japan and the outside world during the Edo period.
Originally built to house Portuguese traders, Dejima was used by the Dutch as a trading post from 1641 until 1853.
In 1996, restoration of Dejima began with plans for reconstructing 25 buildings in their early 19th-century state. 10 buildings throughout the area have been restored so far.
Dejima
Dejima
Inside the Chief Factor's Residence
Inside the Chief Factor's Residence
Tourists can dress up in traditional Japanese clothing and wander the streets like it's 1799.
Samurai or peasant?
Crossing bridges together
Nagasaki light
Overlooking the Nagasaki Bay Area from Glover Garden
Glover Garden was built for Thomas Blake Glover, a Scottish merchant who contributed greatly to the modernization of Japan in shipbuilding, coal mining, and other fields.
This type of architecture closely resembles houses used by foreigners in Hong Kong or Shanghai and imported to Japan by British traders.
Driving to Unzen, the name of the region in the center of the Shimabara-hanto Peninsula which belongs to the volcanic region of Mount Unzen-dake.
Kyushu Hotel, right next to the Unzen-onsen Hot Springs.
We're very happy that Hans is our travel guide in this most southern part of mainland Japan. Literally nobody speaks a word of English here which is rare these days in a first world country.
Nice and spacious room overlooking the hot springy hillsideNice and spacious room overlooking the hot springy hillside.
Hotel room view
Up Mount Unzen-dake. Smile ladies, smile!
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Mount Unzen
Overlooking the whole Unzen-Shimabara peninsula
Between 1991 and 1994 the volcano generated at least 10,000 small pyroclastic flows, destroying about 2,000 houses. Eruptions came to an end in 1995.
This guy doesn't seem to be too concerned about all of this...
Hans slowly disappearing into the smelly fumes. Crossing the Yukemuri-bashi...
Once used to the sulpheric smell, the views are wonderful
Shimabara Castle is a white walled castle built during the early Edo Period as the seat of the local feudal lord. The castle is far larger than those found in domains of similar status.
The five-story keep houses the Castle Tower Museum with a collection of Christian artifacts excavated from the castle ruins, weapons and armor.
The castle used to be surrounded by the residential districts of the samurai serving the local lord. One of these samurai districts, called Teppo-machi (Gun Town) has been preserved with three restored samurai houses that are open to the public.
In order to separate the social castes, samurai were forced to reside in designated districts of the castle towns during the Edo Period (1603-1867).
Shimabara
The kitchen in the samurai household
Shimabara
We put our rental car on the ferry to cross over from Shimabara towards Kumamoto
Birds in flight look cool
Across Shimabara Ba
Almost ready to disembark
Small, cozy, typically Japanese hotel room.
Only a few structures of Kumamoto Castle have survived since the castle's construction in 1607.
The construction of Kumamoto Castle in the early 1600s took seven years, and it was designed by feudal lord Kato Kiyomasa.
The castle keep's main tower and small tower
Rows and rows of sponsor name plates; all these Japanese people and families participated in the reconstruction work of this wonderful castle.
Samurai style
Honmaru Goten Palace building was restored in celebration of the castle's 400th anniversary and was re-opened to the public in 2008.
The original palace building was much larger and included the living quarters of the daimyo, but unfortunately it was one of the many buildings destroyed during the Seinan Civil War.
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Within the building visitors can see accurate recreations of the opulent surroundings in which the daimyo would receive guests.
Kumamoto
Kumamoto
Ready for the Shinkansen!
The Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo - Nagoya - Kyoto - Osaka) is the oldest of the Shinkansen network. Running at up to 320 km/h, the Shinkansen is known for punctuality: most trains depart on time to the second.
Along the tracks between Fukuoka and Osaka, we only see urbanised areas with mountains in the background. Here we pass Hiroshima.
Nishiki Market Street in Kyoto
Matsubara Dori, leading up to the Kiyomizu-dera temple complex
Kiyomizu-dera (literally meaning "Pure Water Temple") is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto.
The three storied pagoda of Kiyomizu-dera has recently been restored and was repainted in its original bright orange colour.
Kiyomizu-dera
Magnificent detailing
Dressed up girl in kimono
Although kimonos are no longer everyday wear in Japan, people still like to wear them at various times throughout the year. And when they do, they use the fabrics, colors, and designs of their kimonos to express their love of the seasons.
Kimono girls looking at the distant Koyasu Pagoda
The Otowa Waterfall at the bottom, located at the base of Kiyomizu-dera's main hall and the Koyasu Pagoda in the distance
Kiyomizu-dera is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. The main hall and the stage were built without the use of a single nail.
Wandering around the kiyomizu-dera temple complex
The Koyasu Pagoda
Autumn leaves all around the temple complex
Fumon-an - modern Japanese sweets shop
Many tourists from China and Korea dress up for the occasion. We didn't feel the urge, especially after seeing some other westeners who did...
Entrance to one of the more than 30 temples in the east of Kyoto
Delicate moss
Yet another temple
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These precious guppies are in every temple pond
Wall art
Chion-in
Eikan-do
Eikan-do
Eikan-do
Yes! Sukiyaki dinner in Pontocho street
Ryoan-ji, in northern Kyoto
Ryoan-ji has a very famous rock garden. A prime example of ancient kare-sansui (dry landscape). It dates back to 1450 AD.
Ryoan-ji
Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple. Magnificent even in dismal weather. Too bad many more people wanted to see this place.
The gate to another finely manicured garden
There is a system for everything here
Autumn leaves
Autumn leaves
False alarm in the backstreets of Nishiki food market
Tofuku-ji temple, in the south of Kyoto
There are many street vendors in the route between the temples. This is a sweet snack with either red bean paste or custard. Nice!
Fushimi inari taisha, the shrine dedicated to the shinto patron of business, merchants and manufacturers.
Sake barrels, one of the many offerings from companies.
The gates are all - thousands!!- sponsored by companies that hope for prosperity by doing so. The larger the gate, the more you pay.
Sole proprietors can also chip in with these tiny 'gates'
You sponsor for 2 years. After that, you can renew. If you don't, some other company will take your place. There is a huge waiting list.
Still, the visible result of all this business acumen is magical
Fushimi inari taisha
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Fushimi inari taisha
Multinational alley
The foxes are supposedly the messengers of Inari.
Fushimi inari taisha
Can't afford a gate probably...
Fushimi inari taisha
Kyoto
Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto
Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto
This is not a geisha though. Geisha's wear the white face make-up.
Gion. The red lanterns are a sign of the neighborhood.
This is a geisha. They are hard to spot on the streets.
We were lucky!
View towards the back of a restaurant on the Kamo river
Great dinner at Chojiro in Pontocho. We were so happy to find a seat. And then the food turned out to be great as well. End of a gorgeous day.
Sushi bar Chojiro in Pontocho.
Day trip to Nara, about 45 minutes by train from Kyoto. This beautiful house, koshi-no-ie, is still in its original lay-out. Great find because it gives insight into the lives of the inhabitants over the centuries.
Koshi-no-ie in Naramachi
Koshi-no-ie in Naramachi
Koshi-no-ie in Naramachi
Koshi-no-ie in Naramachi
Yoshikien garden in Nara park. Absolutely gorgeous!
Yoshikien garden in Nara park
Isuien garden in Nara park. Next to Yoshikien. Also pretty as a picture.
Yoshikien garden in Nara park. Different perspective.
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Nara park, on our way to Toda-ji. Deer trodding around everywhere.
Todai-ji. Founded in 745 by emperor Shomu. This is the world's largest wooden building. It took 15 years to build.
Todai-ji
Nice man explaining to an Australian tourist that he cannot get his name in calligraphy here. He only writes in the booklets that the pelgrims bring from temple to temple. Shows an example.
Incense burning at the temple entrance
Nijo castle, back in Kyoto. Or to be more precise, the entrance to the Ninomaru palace. A beautiful shogun place but we were not allowed to photograph inside.
This is not intended as a piece of art, but as protection against the cold. There is a fir tree in there. Amazing! So much nicer than bubble plastic!
Beautiful detail in Ninomaru Palace
The grounds of Nijo Castle in Kyoto
The Seiryū-en tea garden of Nijo Castle, where we had tea with this view
Back in Gion because we wanted to see it by daylight
Gion by day. Still beautiful.
Don't know what they are. The girl can't be a Maiko (apprentice geisha) because they are not admitted before they are 15 years old. Pretty picture though...
Bye bye Japan. We will be back!
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by @just-edo in Spain