Vietnamese Coffee in Nara

Was feeling really tired and way too early to go out for dinner. It was the perfect time for a pick me up coffee.

Quick googling showed a bit of promise across the road, and sure enough found a place that had a few interesting coffee options, one of them Vietnamese coffee. For those that don’t know it’s coffee on ice over sweetened condensed milk.

It’s an amazing drink on a hot afternoon and hit the spot perfectly. It’s not normally served quite like this, but I wasn’t about to complain.

Doh! A Deer

We arrived in Nara and we found the hotel was even closer to the station than mentioned, its right next door. Not sure this will be as great as it sounds as we can hear the trains on the tracks just outside our window.

The hotel couldn’t check us in till 3pm, however they had bike rentals so we hired some for a few hours to check out things around Nara. First thing of course was to cycle up to the deer park and cycling beats walking there any day. Only took a few minutes to ride up the road to the park.

There is a metric shed load of deer just as described everywhere. Everyone seemed to be focused on buying “deer cookies” to feed them. I was more concerned with avoiding all the deer output and not treading in it.

Also cruised past the pagoda and temple. We are both a little bit templed out. To be honest once you have seen a number of temples and shrines they all start to look the same. For me, my number is about 2 temples.

Coming back into the main strip, we both noticed a pizza house and decided very quickly that’s what we were having for lunch. The pizza was pretty good. The restaurant has a map for tourists to place a sticky dot on the city they are from. We were the first Australians it would seem.

After lunch we cycled down the river for a bit when Dave noticed a baseball game in play across the road so we went to watch for a few minutes. A couple of the kids came over and wanted to practice their English with us, we have had this happen a number of times now. I was chucking to myself a bit thinking if this had been Australia, two middle aged guys talking to school kids in a park some concerned citizen would have called the cops by now.

We had to stop at a level crossing

This hotel has tatami mats and you need to leave shoes in lockers in the lobby. The hotel has a fantastic Onsen that includes two outdoor baths and two indoor ones plus a sauna. I am going to miss the Onsens when I get home.

Last Hiroshima Coffee

Our last Hiroshima coffee this morning on our way to Nara today. Again nothing amazing, just a boring Tully’s coffee.

Waiting for our train on the platform, the Hello Kitty Shinkansen pulled into the platform. I’ve never seen so many people taking train photos at once, and very few of them fit the standard train spotter stereotype.

We are on the Sakura #540 and this is the most comfortable one we have been on. Most Shinkansen have seats in a 3-2 seating arrangement. This has 2-2 so seats are wider, and just more comfortable in general.

All of the trains I’ve been on so far have had 100v outlets for phone chargers. Handy for long train rides

Miyajima Island

We hadn’t really planned to spent all day out at Miyajima Island, but that’s how it turned out. We got up late and headed straight to the station to grab some breakfast and a coffee.

Settled on a Tully’s coffee as the one I’d intended on going to didn’t open till 1pm. Coffee at Tully’s is not fantastic but it’s consistently ok.

It’s a weekend so Miyajima was going to be popular and the train was pretty much standing room only, although we scored seats. On the train was a big bunch of school kids from somewhere in Australia. It’s about 30min on the train from the main Hiroshima station to the ferry terminal.

The Japanese do the public transport so well, as soon as the train arrived at the ferry terminal, there was a ferry waiting to take us to the island. The ferry only take 10 minutes. Of course since we had JR passes, the day out cost us ¥0 (apart from water we bought). JR passes are fantastic.

As soon as we arrived, almost everyone turns right to go to the temple. We thought we would take the cable car up the mountain first so turned left to take the scenic walk to the cable car terminal. For this walk we virtually had the island to ourselves except for the deer, and the mountains of poop they manage to leave everywhere. Watch your step!

I’ve coloured the path we took green :-

On the way to the cable car we found a great place to take some shots down to the temple and Torii gate

Some of our new hiking friends

We got to the cable car site, and just our luck, it was closed. Seems to be a theme with us in Japan. The cable car was closed in Hakone too.

There was another sign saying you could hike the 2.5km up instead, but warned to take plenty of water. We had some water (luckily I’d bought a litre down at the ferry terminal). So off we went. It was almost 2.5km of stairs straight up. It made the walk we did along the Nakasendo Trail look like a walk in the park.

It was hot and we passed people who didn’t carry water or were dressed in jeans etc. Some people are crazy. We had what I thought was enough water but should have taken more. At the top was a vending machine that was very popular and had run out of everything except cold coffee and green tea water. The green tea water wasn’t as bad as it looked.

Here is Dave on one of the 5 million fucking stairs :-

If the fucking stairs don’t kill you, the snakes will. Hey, at least it’s starting to feel like home with deadly snakes everywhere. Didn’t see any.

The view from the top made the climb worthwhile. Given the cable car wasn’t working it wasn’t crowded up here at all.

We took a different route down the mountain. Just as many stairs of course but not as much tree cover and some amazing water courses to control the massive storm water they get here

Once down the mountain, the tide had gone out so we walked out to the Tori gate. Unfortunately it’s started to undergo renovations so was partly covered with scaffolding

From here we headed back to the hotel. We had thought we would probably spend 2 hours max out here today, and we didn’t leave till after 4.

After a dip in the hotel Onsen it was time for dinner. We had Chinese tonight at the station then found a parfait place and had one of those.

I had a pork dish. Not spoiled with seaweed flakes tonight 🙂

Parfait. Seriously yum

The map image of our hike. I should have started recording at the ferry terminal but didn’t until the cable car starting point.

Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

Another Japanese food goal achieved today. Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki from a building I’ve read about that is just four level of Okonomiyaki restaurants.

This place (Okonomimura) was rather hard to find, but after a few minutes going in circles we found it.

The experience was amazing having so many places all making the same food and having it (then eating it) off the hot plate right it front of you is fantastic. Added to the theatre of the whole experience was having a TV in the background playing Japanese baseball.

Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki is make with a base of noodles and is not as creamy as the Kansai style that most people would recognise as Okonomiyaki.

Whilst the experience was great I’ll be honest admitting that I wasn’t overly impressed with my Okonomiyaki and somewhat disappointed. Just as it was almost cooked it was sprinkled with green (seaweed?) flakes that gave it a bit of a fishy aftertaste. I won’t be hurrying to try another, I’ll be sticking to the Kansai style.

Washed it down with a glass of the plumb wine liqueur. Now that is delicious.

Entrance to the building

Here is where it’s at on the map

After dinner wandering the streets

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Station Dinner

edit : looks like I forgot to publish this post the other day

After our epic hike in the mountains we decided to grab some dinner at the station before heading back to the hotel for a dip in the relaxing Onsen.

We chose this Teppanyaki style restaurant right near the station. Yet again amazing food l. I had a delicious pork Okonomiyaki and Dave had a set of skewers. All washed down with a nice bottle of South American wine from Chile.

The Okonomiyaki I had is Kansai style (thanks for the tip Halves). Hiroshima the style is different and includes noodles with the pancake. Looking forward to trying that one

The skewers Dave had :-

chef cooking an omelette :-

A nice drop

Atom Bomb and Peace Museum

No trip to Hiroshima would be complete without a visit to the Atom Bomb dome and Peace museum. I’d also argue it’s a must see for anyone’s first trip to Japan, learning more about what happened here gives you a better appreciation for how modern Japan evolved after WW2.

When the Americans dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945 they were aiming for a T shaped bridge called the Aioi Bridge. In the photo below I’m standing right where it was supposed to land, also shown on the map.

They didn’t miss by much, it exploded 600 meters in the air about 250 meters from where I’m standing just behind the actual dome. It was almost the only structure left standing in the city.

The museum has a few photos of what it looked like just before the bombing and just after

This photo is apparently the first one taken right after the bombing. About 3 hours after

I didn’t take many photos inside. Most of the pictures are a bit too horrific. Visiting is a surreal experience, the building with these displays is huge, there are hundreds of people inside and you could literally hear a pin drop. No one is taking or making any sounds, just hundreds of people trying to process what they are seeing and reading as they move through.

Some information on how much radiation it takes to kill you.

Make sure you visit if you come to Japan.