Spontaneous Acts (Journey to Hiroshima)

One beautiful morning, it was 11am. I, spontaneously, wanted to go somewhere.

I occasionally have this feeling but I always force myself to ignore due to other priorities such as study and work. But I am on holiday (and single!) at the moment so I decided to go with it. :)

Since I am not fond of cold weather, heading west was appeared to be a favorable option.

Departure Point - Kyoto

Seishun Juhachi Kippu (Yourth 18 Ticket)
I bought a Seishun Juhachi Kippu, This is also referred as 'Youth 18 ticket' (Japan-Guide.com, 2011). It contains separable 5 daily unlimited nationwide local train railway tickets, which can be used for any railway lines of Japan Railways (JR).

Japanese Old Train - very tasteful

This ticket is sold only the during holiday periods and cannot be used for express trains such as shinkansen, bullet trains,  so there are few limitations but is a very cheap option for travelling around the country (The ticket costs 11,500yen therefore only 2,300yen per day for unlimited travel.). Despite its confusing name, there is no age restriction for the purchase and use of this ticket.

Train interior view 

Holding the Youth 18 Ticket, I caught a train heading west.

Encounter with a Madam
At Himeji train station, one madam (obachan) was sitting next to me.

She was also travelling alone using a Youth 18 Ticket. Japanese are very shy people so it is very rear to talk to strangers in normal situation. But as we spend 5 hours on rail sitting next to each other, we talked about many things, such as the criticism of current Japanese politicians, the earthquake,  good fishing spots, the difficulty (almost impossibility) of forming successful inter-religious relationship, and tourism hot spots in Japan etc.

With the Youth 18 ticket, train runs very slowly and stops every single station. Time consuming but there is nothing to miss on the way. I have captured many local beauties.

A scenery from the train window

A scenery from the train window

A scenery from the train window

A scenery from the train window

Labour Intensive Japanese Trains
Japanese trains are very labour intensive as for example there are four officers in a four carriage train between Himeji and Hiroshima (about 5 hour journey). It is definitely not cost effective operation from the management point of view (as opposed to the ones in Australia, for example, which normally carries one officer (i.e. train driver) per train but gives you a unique experience of a train journey (and you are not the one paying the wage for them anyway!).

The reason why there are so many officers are because they still doing many things manually and heavily service oriented. For example, the announcement for the coming stations are made manually for every stop. Besides, in addition to informing the next stop they tell us the following information:

1. Local attractions and events information (if any)
2. The manner of mobile use (no talking, mobile need to be switched off on priority seats and area around them.)
3. Possible danger in a train (e.g use of emergency bottom)
4. The side of the door which will open at the next stop
5. Transfer (if any)
6. Apology and details for delay (even 1 minute late)
7. And, finally, appreciation on board

Plus, the officers walk through the carriages every 30 minutes or so, so if you have any inquiries they can help you promptly. Therefore, from my observation, they are busy somehow and that’s why they are so many officers in a train Japan.

Busy officer

Hiroshima and Backpackers Hostel

Finally - Hiroshima

Thinking those things, I am already here in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is one of the two places where an atomic-bomb was dropped upon in the long human history. The city was once completely destroyed and over 200,000 people are killed by just one bomb on 6 August, 1946. Now, Hiroshima has reborn with a Hiroshima Heiwa Koen (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park) as a peaceful symbol of Japan, being one of the most visited destinations in Japan.

The A-bomb Dorm - Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

More information on A-bomb Dorm (click the image to enlarge)

Hiroshima  Peace Memorial Park

Rest in Peace - Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

The city itself is very flat and trams are running conveniently across the entire city. Therefore, in my opinion, it is quiet similar to place like Melbourne.

Tram - Hiroshima

Tram Station - Hiroshima

I stayed in a backpackers hostel in Japan for the first time. The place I stayed is called J-Hoppers, probably one of the first backpackers hostel in Japan. This place is not only friendly, clean, comfortable and cheap (I paid only 2,300 yen (26 AUS) for a dorm night) accommodation, they keep entertain tourists in many interesting ways.

J-Hoppers - Entrance

For example, when I was there, local university students were holding a party with the guests at the hostel. I found it was very wise, creating a win-win situation.
The party gives opportunity for the students to learn English (there are many guests from places like Canada and Australia), and guest can have a cheap meal, mingle with local (young) boys and girls and learn about the Japanese culture. And hostel sells beer, which brings additional revenue to the hostel, plus this whole thing would contribute to the healthy globalisation of the community and deepen the understanding between local people and tourists.

So, I am really enjoying my spontaneous acts.

Today's Route

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Next, I am slowly heading even east, cannot wait for getting to the next destination.

にほんブログ村 英語ブログへ

にほんブログ村 旅行ブログへ


Lake Biwa Ride

Riding around Lake Biwa was one of the favorites for full on day cycling from Kyoto at the time when I was there as a university student. This massive lake, Lake Biwa, is the largest freshwater lake in Japan with the area of 670km2, which makes almost as same size as Singapore (694km2).
Lake Biwa

Bikes (from left) Iwasaki - Kun's, Mine, Sambo's

Japanese Premium Asahi Beer, in a 'frozen' glass!!

Ishizaki-kun (left) Sambo (right)
 Ishizaki-kun (left) Sambo (right)
Asahi and Yakitori (Kawa)

Agedashi Tamago (Bonito Flavoured Omlette)


So with Sambo and Iwasaki-Kun, we decided to commit ourselves to ride around the lake like before. Sambo was my travel buddy when we did the bike trip of the whole length of Japanese archipelago, namely as Japan Cycle Crossing during the summer of 2007. He is now a bicycle mechanic at Eirin Marutamachi. Iwasaki-Kun is Sambo’s childhood friend who is a keen cyclist who did also ride across Japan, who is now a chef.

Sambo (left) and Ishizaki Kun (right)
Izakaya Catch Up
We met up night before the trip commencement at an Izakaya near Sambo’s place. Izakaya is a type of very small eating and drinking place where tapas kind of traditional Japanese food such as karaage (deep-fried chicken), yakitori (grilled chicken skewers flavoured with sweet soya sauce) and sashimi (sliced raw fish dipped with soya sauce and wasabi) and drink such as beer (Asahi) and local sake and shochu (famous Japanese distilled beverage, usually made from either rice, wheat or potatoes) are served at a reasonable price. To give you some idea, at this particular place, we each paid 2500 yen (about 30AUD) for a few pints of beer and enough food to make us stuffed. This is kind of place is somewhere you need to dine in during the stay in Japan as you will see real face of Japanese local cuisine and its warm hospitality, which are, in my opinion, quite different from other country.

Biwa Ride
After the sleepless night we left Sambo’s place at 4.30am for this main ride. Yes, we, Japanese people work very hard and (therefore?) play tremendously hard. Compromises are not made in any circumstances. In fact, Sambo and Iwasaki-kun had been working whole day prior to the meeting.

Lake Biwa

To get to the Lake Biwa from Kyoto is about a 20km ride, from the Kyoto City centre, easiest way would be riding towards east on Sanjyo Dori (Ave.). The temperature was 3C (26F). Although it is said that this winter is warmer than ordinal winter, coming back from Perth, It was freezing cold.
As we ride along the Lake the sun was rising from the horizon. We stopped by a shrine for a photo stop. There are not many places in this country where you can see a full horizon view as the country is mountainous and heavily developed. Also, there are number of temples and shrines you could visit during the ride of Lake Biwa.

Sunrise by the shrine
Horizon and Sunrise

The morning ride was perfect apart from the cold weather as the sun was up and reasonably few traffic. However, as we rode towards north and time towards noon, the weather started getting cloudy and misty. The weather forecast said it was going to be sunny but it seemed not going to be right.

As we go along, we stopped places called ‘michinoeki.’ Michi (Road) no eki (Station) is a place where tourists can get rest and enjoy local produces. Typically, you find locally produced vegetables, local cuisine and souvenir. There are michinoekis across the country and you can find many of them along the lake side too. (Probably about every 50km).

Yakiimo - Grilled Sweet potato

Local apple

Warabi Mochi and Iwasaki kun

Lake Biwa is a famous destination for cyclists and so the cycle paths are being facilitated too. However, I found that the paths are not very well sign posted. Therefore, map would be helpful for the ride. Otherwise, you will have to ride along the heavy traffic or get lost.

A passimon tree

By 3pm rain was getting stronger and stronger and we were getting sleepier and sleepier. We stopped a place called Nagahama, a town located on the north eastern side of the lake. We found its locally brewed beer, ‘Roman Beer’. In the next moment we found ourselves in a train with handful of the beer. After getting back to Kyoto, we cooked up some Nabe, Japanese hot pot, had the beer. We were supposed to be committed to do the ride but we couldn’t do anything in from of the local beer.

the wet weather

The last stop, Nagahama Railway Station

By the end of the day we realized having fun is always the primary goal for cycling and also we are no longer 19.

Japanese version of this post can be seen in Sabbai’s blog.

Photos for the ride by Sambo are here.

Today’s route

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にほんブログ村 英語ブログへ

にほんブログ村 旅行ブログへ


Osaka Hardcourt Bike Polo

Today , thanks to Monkey san, I had a chance to see and play bike polo with Osaka Harcourt Bike Polo (OHBP) crew at Minatonomori Park in Sanomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.

First, the venue they have is superb. It is a council approved 360 degree fully covered hard court. Although I find it was a bit bigger than what we have in Perth as it was originally designed for roller hockey or some sort, it was something every polo player dreams of. This court was used for the national championship for japan, japan cup this year.

The court - very noice, I can live here

Second I found that the level of players at the OHBP are amazingly high. Especially because the winning team of Japan Cup from this club and consequently played in the world champ too as a national rep.

The OHBP Crew

It would be really great if some of them could fly over Perth to play in the Australasian Hardourt Bike Polo Championship (AHBPC) 2012. Would be awesome to see Australia vs Japan overlooking swan river:)

I have encountered a bike builder, SLiC, who is based in Osaka. Now you can build your custom polo bike with them. I saw the bike, but didn't take the photo of it. I will write about this builder later when I got more information.   

With a professionally skilled and very friendly bunch of people and a superb court, If you have chance and bike to play in Osaka, I would really recommend you to visit this very cool club.

Osaka Harcourt Bike Polo



Please be careful of deer as they occasionally attack people.

I have a confession to make.

When I am asked a question, 'where about Japan are you from?' I say, after some consideration, ' I ,,eh,, am from Kyoto'. And people normally react something like, 'ah, Kyoto, I know...'

 But I am actually NOT from Kyoto. I am from a small town called 'Nara'.

This is because Kyoto has got an internationally well-established reputation as a tourism destination with its World Heritage Listed historic Townscape as the former capital city of Japan and exciting nightlife.

Whereas Nara is far less known town than Kyoto. If I say 'I'm from Nara', then conversation will not continue anymore. Even for Japanese tourists, Nara is classified as a little brother of Kyoto. People visit Kyoto and visit Nara only when they have some spare time. That is the general perception of Nara. Thus, I have been choosing to locate my hometown in Kyoto since I left Japan.

However, coming back to Nara, I have re-discovered this small town's great value, deer. Nara is one of very few places where deer and human share the place of living. Such place has identified previously in Thooheys's  Nuctorial Migration, which was observed presumably in Australia.

There are a number of wild deer in the central tourism district of Nara, Nara Park, also locally known as ,Deer Park. In this place, 'deer rules' apply. as tourists are often a  tragically targeted by wild deer. The picture below describe what deer could do to human. First, deer would bite you, then they would kick you, besides, they would butt you and finally the deer would knock you down. That's   pretty hard core isn't it. Its like the combination of different marshal arts.

Do you think it is not true, I saw one of the victims, a man been mobbed by a number of deer.

and deer everywhere.

Here is one of the tourism promotional posters of Nara. Its slogan saying:
Wait for me....
I wait for you....

hum,, its deep.

That is a bit about my hometown, Nara.

Hope you find this post useful and will visit Nara next time but be sure you wear appropriate protective gears, just in case.

For more information: Nara

There are some very old temples, shrines and gates too.