If you’re going to give your hiking trail a name like “the Dragon’s Back,” then that trail had better be pretty majestic.
And yeah, the Dragon’s Back definitely lives up to its name; it features some absolutely jaw-dropping views.
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.
Of course, it helps when the sights are this spectacular.
I think we’ve reached the point where I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking.
Aside from Sakurajima, Sengan-en is one of those things that comes up a bunch when you’re looking for things to do in Kagoshima.
It’s a former residence dating back to the 1600s that’s been turned into a pretty amazing garden.
It costs 1000 yen to get in (about 11 bucks Canadian), but it’s totally worth it.
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.
That’s not to mention the hiking trail that leads to a spectacular view of the surrounding area.
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.
One 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.
It’s a quick, but scenic, boat ride.
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.
There’s also a surprising number of cats, for some reason.
There’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)….
…and another crab (which also has moving legs).
And the wackiness doesn’t stop there.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
Towards the end, it was finally empty enough for me to take a picture like this:
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.
It wasn’t bad — it had a mildly nutty flavour, and was a nice treat after a long uphill walk.
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).
I know, more cemeteries? Weird, right? Well what can I say, they’re entrancing.
Many of the temples in Kyoto have a cemetery attached, and some of them are quite striking.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
I think the pictures speak for themselves.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
I spent over an hour just wandering around and taking it all in.
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).
There 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.
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.
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.
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.
And then there’s probably my favourite temple that I went to in Kyoto, the Honen-in Temple.
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.