IT’S an incredibly interesting country. From ancient traditions to massive skyscrapers there is so much to see and do.
For Cindy and David Abbey of Shepparton, this was to be an opportunity to meet old friends who would take them to see the real Japan.
It really all started many years ago when Cindy was a teacher at the Kyabram Secondary College, which formed a Sister City relationship Shiroi, a city near Tokyo.
Both Cindy and David had visited Japan before and hosted students in their home, so this holiday would be a chance to renew old friendships.
They arrived in Shiroi for a three day stay. The first night they were welcomed by a party of 30 people, many of them have taken part in the exchange program with Australia.
Even though they were in Japan it was decided that the party would be held at a Chinese restaurant. The food was great and everyone made a speech.
The next day David and Cindy visited Tokyo. They met up with another old friend and just to do something different, they headed for a local pop-up restaurant.
It was situated under a bridge. You could smell the inviting food through the smoke that was emanating out from under the bridge. It was a traditional Yakitori barbeque with chicken skewers cooked on a grill. It wasn’t until after they had finished that Cindy realised the menu said they had eaten chicken intestines, but it tasted good.
The following day they met up with another exchange student who had stayed with them in Australia some 20 plus years ago.
They took a boat trip on the Sumida River, the old Tokyo River that took them to Odaiba, a new satellite city built on reclaimed land and now a very up-market area of Japan.
They took the train back to Tokyo and decided to try Korean food. You have a table with the barbeque grill set into the table’s centre and you sit around with trays of food to be cooked by you on the grill. Cindy says there is lots of variety and it’s spicier than Japanese food.
It was New Year and a time for the Japanese to return home to their families. Many also take time to visit a major shrine and so David and Cindy decided to do the same.
There were millions of people walking along towards the shrine. David says there was a special feeling in the air as they entered the grounds of the shrine to pay their respects.
In Tokyo there is a communications tower called the Sky Tree. It’s a long trip to the top but the view over Tokyo is spectacular. On a clear day you can see the whole city complete with Mt Fuji standing proud in the distance.
Now they took the bullet train to Kyoto. It travels at 300km an hour and cars, as you pass them, become a blur.
Kyoto is the place to visit if you want to see the soul of Japan. Its many shrines and temples tell the story of Japan’s past. Cindy and David stayed in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn complete with matting floors and those beautiful wood and paper sliding doors.
They ate a traditional Japanese meal there, which consisted of many courses, each presented in a special way. A meal to remember.
They now visited Osaka. Meeting up with another friend; an exchange teacher who had worked in Kyabram. Together they had a great time seeing the sights and sampling some street food.
Back in Kyoto they were now joined by their son, James and daughter-in-law, Caitlin who had flown in from Melbourne to spend the last two weeks of the holiday with them.
It was back on the bullet train to Akita Ken. A visit to the country. They stayed at Hot Springs Inn, where you take a traditional hot tub outdoors. This was a favourite with the Samurai 1,500 years ago.
The tubs are fed with volcanic spring water that is milky in colour. David says it was something different soaking in the tub as fresh snow fell on your head.
Cindy and David thought this was wonderful and then the management said they wanted to upgrade them to another facility where they would have their own private apartment with private hot tub and wonderful food. David did not argue and took the offer.
Finally they flew to the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan to a ski resort for five wonderful nights and fun filled days of skiing.
Cindy said the snow was three metres deep and was like soft powder. If you fell you did not get wet the snow just brushed off your clothes. The top temperature was minus six but it was wonderful skiing.
It was time to come home. James and Caitlyn returned to Melbourne and Cindy and David headed back to Shepparton. It was certainly a holiday to remember with great memories and renewed friendships in wonderful Japan.
Until next time,