So, the rugby world cup happened. Our adopted home team, the All Blacks, were knocked out in the semis. England lost the final… South Africa won.
Why is this important? Well, rugby is almost like a religion in New Zealand and also in our house. Hubby is a sports doctor and his passion is rugby. He also loves to travel. So when the tickets for the world cup tournament in Japan went on sale he entered the ballot with a couple of friends. They managed to get tickets for four games and when one of the friends dropped out of the trip I was invited along. As I like to travel too (:-)) of course I said yes but with a rider of… as long as we can find a decent hike to do while we’re there.
So, in September we spent 20 days touring Japan. I have never been before and didn’t really know what to expect but I was completely blown away by the friendly people, the amazing food and the beautiful scenery.
We spent 7 days in Tokyo (5 days at the beginning of the trip and 2 days at the end), 4 days in the Wakayama prefecture walking the 75 km Komano Kodo pilgrimage walk, which was fabulous, then Kyoto, Oita, Hiroshima and Osaka.
Tokyo is crazy. The tube system is bonkers (42 lines!!). Parts of it are garish and busy, other areas are serene. It is beautiful organised chaos. We went from crazy shopping districts to quiet temples and ate so many different types of food/cuisine I couldn’t keep up.
Then we spent 5 days in lush forests, climbed mountains and stayed in traditional ryokan hotels with shared (gender segregated) onsen baths. This was a challenge as you can imagine, mainly because you are not allowed to wear anything! I was definitely well out of my comfort zone, but after the first time I did become less self conscious and , given the hotel bedrooms didn’t have a shower/bath I had no option but use them!! Once out of the bath we had to wear Kimonos and slippers provided by the hotel. Sleeping was also a challenge as the beds were futons on the floor and not very comfortable, but because we were so tired from the hiking we did manage to get some rest!
I loved Osaka – the pace of life felt a little slower. Kyoto was temples, temples, temples. Hiroshima was very sobering but also very hopeful as the residents there are fighting for a global non-nuclear future. In Osaka we slept in a ‘capsule’ hotel. Again, segregated into men’s floors and women’s floors. You are allocated a tiny crawl in space where you sleep I could easily sit up in mine but could reach out and touch the sides and roof very easily. Not for the claustrophobic! And not very comfortable, to be honest. But we had heard about them and thought we’d give them a go. Two nights was enough!!
The rugby games were fabulous, mainly because of the stadium volunteers who were locals who wanted their visitors to have the best experience. They were so helpful and fun and high fived everyone (and I mean all 40,000!!!! spectators!) as we left after the games.
Considering Japan wasn’t on my bucket list of places to visit I had one of the best holidays there. Have you ever been surprised by a place/activity when you weren’t expecting to be?