Japan's Southern Delights

1 March 2012

Jillian Doris travels through the southern half of Japan and discovers a country with great food, proud and welcoming people, a fascinating culture and strong ties to its past.

 Dressing like Geishas

Kinkajou Temple
When we arrived at Narita Airport, the prospect of another six hours of travel seemed impossible, especially in the heat wave that had hit Japan. However, travel we did. After freshening up, it's amazing what you are ready to take on! We wasted no time in heading to Kinkajou Temple (The Golden Temple) before it closed, for a brief walk around the gardens and an insight into the temple's history from our amazing tour guide Yuka.

Kyoto's Geishas
Yuka then took us out for our first dinner at a restaurant called Katsukura in Kyoto's centre. The meal was authentic and delicious. After dinner, we went on a night stroll through Gion, Kyoto's Geisha district, in search of real Geishas. Yuka showed us a beautiful little street lined with exclusive bars, restaurants and Geisha houses that was made all the more unreal by the light rain and glowing paper lanterns. On our second day in Kyoto, we enthusiastically had our makeup done and were dressed as Geishas and Samurai. It is amazing how many heavy layers they wear, and the time and grace that go into the way they dress.

Hiroshima and Peace Memorial Park
Next was Nara and Hiroshima. We jumped on a train from Kyoto, ditched our bags at Nara Train Station and took a walk up to the Deer Park. Here we were fooled by the innocent cartoon-like appearance of hundreds of deer - they were actually quite aggressive in reality! In the afternoon, we jumped back on the bullet train to Hiroshima where we braved the heat to check out Peace Memorial Park - a moving and utterly beautiful place. It's extremely sad seeing some of the preserved clothing and objects in the museum knowing what happened to their owners, but the vibe of the whole town is totally peace-oriented and there were students everywhere getting petitions signed against nuclear weapons. After such a big day Yuka took us to a Karaoke bar where there was unlimited beer and sake the entire time. Needless to say it was a winner.

Miyajima Island
The following day we took a boat out to Miyajima Island and checked out the temple and town. With deer roaming freely and a beautiful mountain to climb, this place was  surreal. I opted for a teahouse and some Hello Kitty shopping to try and avoid the heat. We spent the night back in Hiroshima and went out for a feast of Japanese cuisine, which to my delight included every type of raw seafood imaginable.

Tokyo and Harajuku
Tokyo was next and I decided to split from the group and head out by myself for the day. I went exploring in Shibuya and crossed the famous four-way crossing in the middle of a parade. I then headed to Harajuku and wished I could stay forever with the fabulous clothes and people. It is the cutest place in the world! Our group reconvened in Shibuya for a final special dinner where we cooked our own food and shared some beers. I'm pretty certain that given the chance, none of us would have left the following day.

Interested in a trip to Japan? Contact Jillian Doris, an International Travel Consultant with Flight Centre based in Underwood, Queensland who can be reached on 1300 173 221.

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