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Scenic

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Hiking the Dragon’s Back in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong KongIf you’re going to give your hiking trail a name like “the Dragon’s Back,” then that trail had better be pretty majestic.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

And yeah, the Dragon’s Back definitely lives up to its name; it features some absolutely jaw-dropping views.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

The amount of satisfaction that I get from hiking is something that has really surprised me on this trip.  I sort of figured I’d be sticking completely to cities — and that is pretty much what I’m doing — but being able to get out and see nature every now and then is actually really nice.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Of course, it helps when the sights are this spectacular.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

I think we’ve reached the point where I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking.

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Dragon's Back hike in Hong Kong

Sengan-en

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, JapanAside from Sakurajima, Sengan-en is one of those things that comes up a bunch when you’re looking for things to do in Kagoshima.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s a former residence dating back to the 1600s that’s been turned into a pretty amazing garden.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It costs 1000 yen to get in (about 11 bucks Canadian), but it’s totally worth it.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

Just getting there is pretty spectacular.  It’s about two kilometres from the city, and you could take a bus, but the walk is impressively scenic; it’s clearly the way to go.  I mean, I think this video speaks for itself.

Then you get there and it’s enormous and seriously impressive.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

That’s not to mention the hiking trail that leads to a spectacular view of the surrounding area.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s pretty much just endless steps going up, so it’s crazy exhausting, but once you get up there it’s totally worth it.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

That’s not a bad view at all.

Sengan-en in Kagoshima, Japan

Volcano Walk

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, JapanOne of the things Kagoshima is best known for is its proximity to Sakurajima, an active volcano on a nearby island (or what used to be an island — the lava from a 1914 eruption actually connected it to the mainland).

There’s a ferry that goes from Kagoshima to the island every ten minutes or so.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s a quick, but scenic, boat ride.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

Once you get to the island, there’s a path that goes along the shore where you can see some volcanic rocks, and a pretty great view of the volcano.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

There’s also a surprising number of cats, for some reason.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

But mostly, some amazing views.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

I mean, come on.

Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan

Deering it up at Nara Park

Nara Park in Nara, JapanThere’s a city called Nara that’s about an hour away from Osaka by train; its claim to fame is Nara Park, an absolutely enormous park that’s populated by over a thousand exceptionally friendly deer.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

These deer have been co-existing with people in this park for hundreds of years, so they’re not afraid of people at all.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

I sort of figured they’d be in one small area of the park, but nope — everywhere you go, hey, there’s a deer.

Some of them are just wandering around.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Other’s are just chillin’.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

A lot of them are hoping for food.  There are several vendors throughout the park that sell a bundle of special deer crackers for 150 yen.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

There’s pretty much always a deer hanging out nearby, hoping for a quick snack.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Once you’ve got these crackers, hungry deer will come right up to you.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

What’s this?  A cracker?

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

One please.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Nom.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

This never gets old.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

Just stick a cracker out and within seconds, here comes a deer.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

I have a video of this, too.  Note: these deer are so Japanese, they’ll sometimes bow to you before or after you give them a cracker.  You can see it a couple of times in the video.

You also occasionally see deer getting into fights.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

These guys butted their heads together until one of them gave up, bowed to the other, and backed off.

There’s also a couple of temples in the park.

Nara Park in Nara, Japan

And yeah, of course there are deer hanging out there, too.

It’s a pretty amazing place.

Wacky Sights at Dotombori

Dotombori in Osaka, JapanThere’s an area in Osaka called Dotombori that’s pretty much tourist central, and when you go there, it’s easy enough to see why.  The main street here is absolutely festooned with restaurants, each with a zanier and more elaborate sign than the last.

There are any number of animals, including a crab (I probably should have taken a video of that one — its legs move up and down)….

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

…a blowfish…

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

…an octopus…

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

…and another crab (which also has moving legs).

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

And the wackiness doesn’t stop there.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Or there.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

I think you get the idea.

Plus, if you go around the corner, there’s a bunch of elaborate ads overlooking the Dotombori canal, including the iconic Glico Running Man, which has been an Osaka landmark since 1935.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Plus, there’s this location of Don Quijote, a Japanese chain of discount stores.  Yes, that’s a ferris wheel, though it’s no longer in use.

Dotombori in Osaka, Japan

Thousands of Orange Gates

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, JapanI mentioned in a recent post that the under-the-radar temples and shrines in Kyoto are where it’s at; well, on the other end of the spectrum is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is famous for its seemingly endless pathways of orange gates.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

It’s a stunning sight, but it’s also as insanely packed with tourists as you’d fear, especially at the beginning of the trail.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Thankfully, it’s about four kilometres long and leads up into Mount Inari, and as you get deeper inside, it becomes less and less crowded.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Towards the end, it was finally empty enough for me to take a picture like this:

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

And, because I have a hard time writing a blog post without talking about food, there’s a little cafe about halfway up that sells soft serve ice cream cones.  One of them was “soy bean flour” flavoured, and of course, I had to try it.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

It wasn’t bad — it had a mildly nutty flavour, and was a nice treat after a long uphill walk.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

You also get a pretty good view of the city from up there (which would have been better if it weren’t so hazy out).

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

Temple Cemeteries

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, JapanI know, more cemeteries?  Weird, right?  Well what can I say, they’re entrancing.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

Many of the temples in Kyoto have a cemetery attached, and some of them are quite striking.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

I took a brief video at one of them.  It doesn’t really capture it (it’s mostly wind noise from the tiny built-in microphone on my camera), but there was something weirdly serene and kind of eerie about the sense of quiet here; just birds chirping and boards clacking.

Then there was this odd pyramid of sorts at one of the cemeteries; I don’t know what it was, but it was certainly memorable.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

I am, however, always vaguely paranoid that I’ll accidentally knock over a tombstone or something and wind up with a Grudge-esque curse, so if I die under mysterious circumstances here, you’ll know what’s what.

Temple cemeteries in Kyoto, Japan

A Memorable Cemetery in Kyoto

Cemetery near Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, JapanI was wandering around after visiting the Kiyomizu Temple (which was really nice, but completely overrun with tourists), and I stumbled across an absolutely amazing cemetery.

Cemetery near Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

I know: the word “amazing” is not generally used to describe a graveyard, but bear with me.  As I’ve posted about before, Japanese cemeteries are more interesting than you’d think.  And this one was stunning.

Cemetery near Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Cemetery near Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Just the location itself was impressive, not to mention the way the tombstones look, and the sheer, almost endless volume of them.  There had to be thousands of graves here.  It’s a little bit overwhelming.

Cemetery near Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

And like every other cemetery I’ve been to on this trip, I was pretty much the only tourist there, and I get it, but come on.  Look at that.

Cemetery near Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Wandering Around Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanI think this is one of those posts where I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking, because Nijo Castle is pretty remarkable.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

I think most days you can go inside the castle itself, which I guess is like a museum of sorts?  I was unlucky enough to show up on a day where the inside was closed, however the just the grounds around the castle are easily worth the 400 Yen admission fee.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

I spent over an hour just wandering around and taking it all in.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

The gardens are really impressive (and I’m sure they’d be even more impressive in the summer when all the leaves are still on the trees).

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, JapanNijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan

Amazing Shrines and Temples in Kyoto

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, JapanThere are over 1600 temples and 400 shrines in Kyoto, which is readily apparent when you’re walking around the city.  It’s hard to walk more than a few blocks without stumbling onto a temple or a shrine, and when you’re on the outskirts of the city, they’re absolutely everywhere.

The more famous ones are certainly worth seeing, though they tend to be packed with wall-to-wall tourists, which does diminish the experience somewhat.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

I discovered some of the shrines and temples I liked best just by randomly wandering around the city.

That’s the only way you’ll find quirkier shrines like this one, which was rabbit-themed.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

More rabbits:

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

Here’s another one I randomly stumbled across.  It’s hard to argue that it’s any less impressive than the more tourist-friendly temples, and I only saw a couple of other people while I was there.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

I’m not one of those travelers who looks down on anything touristy; I have no problem staying on the beaten track if it’ll lead me somewhere memorable, even if I’m the millionth person to do it.  But there’s an amazing sense of serenity to being alone at a place like this that’s completely lost when you’re surrounded on all sides.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

And then there’s probably my favourite temple that I went to in Kyoto, the Honen-in Temple.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

This one I actually did read about (which is why I know the name for this one and not the others), but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be nearly as tourist-filled as some of the more popular ones.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan

I have no idea why.  It was pretty amazing.

Shrines and Temples in Kyoto, Japan