Saturday, January 15, 2011

A worthy 2000km trip (Muroran - Yamaguchi) - Part 4 (Season Finale)

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

31 December 2010
This'll gonna be the last part for the 2010 winter trip. This time it's in Kobe. We set off from Osaka a bit late. The capsule hotel was just so comfy, really. Had a good night sleep and a fresh morning start. Our next destination was my friend's house near the Kobe University. Though Kobe is in south of Japan, it's still snowing there. Uhhh.....

It's Friday and all Muslim have to for the Friday congregation. We were lucky as in Kobe we had a chance to perform our Solat in the first Mosque in Japan, the Kobe Mosque.... Alhamdulillah, really missed the chance of performing the Friday congregation and met with other Muslim from another countries. Tell you what, the mosque itself survived the famous large scale earthquake in Kobe in 1995, known as the Great Hanshin earthquake. During the end of World War 2, the basement of this mosque became the shelter for soldiers and civilians from the Allied forces bombing.

Now, my main point is, wherever you go, be it in a Muslim country or non-Muslim country, if there are mosques or even the small musolla there, go for a visit and if it's not a burden for you, perform the Tahiyyatul-Masjid Solat, a 2-rakaat solat (sunat), performed every time a Muslim enter a Mosque. For me it's a sign of gesture and respect. You hauled your ass to see the temples in Kyoto, yet don't tell me you don't have the feel to visit the Masjid (mosque)....It's like you went to others house and you just went to the toilet without even asking for a permission from the owner. How's that?

Main prayer hall of the Kobe Mosque

After the Friday Congregation, meeting other Muslim from all around the world. Some Japanese police were there.....Coz were Muslim, maybe they thought mass gathering is about planning to........ you fill it in yourself... 

After the Jumaah prayer (Friday congregation), we decided to take a walk around the city of Kobe. Nothing much I found except a road full of European-style mansions. The location is Kitano-cho (北野町). The place is a historical district in Kobe, Japan, which contains a number of foreign residences from the late Meiji and early Taishō eras of Japanese history. While the term ijinkan (異人館)  can refer to any foreign residence of this period in Japan, it usually refers to those of Kitano given the number and high concentration of those that remain. Ijinkan districts exist in other locales (notably Yokohama and Nagasaki), but due to war and natural disasters, these districts are not as well preserved.

Here, read those words with a rhythm of 'So Hot' song from Wondergirls (around 0:30-0:32 to be precise). This mansion was once used by Albert Einstein during his visit in Kobe (if I'm not mistaken).

Found this in front of the JR station (forgot it's name, sorry). The theme: "Stacked Ass" (Kidding)

The manhole cover of Kobe. Every city in Japan has their own design. It's quite fun to look for them. The design usually refers to anything special or famous in the city.

Next we headed to watch the famous Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge. The bridge links the city of Kobe on the mainland of Honshū to Iwaya on Awaji Island by crossing the busy Akashi Strait. The wind was very strong. That was my first time ever in my life experiencing those 'near flown away' experience. It was very cold. The tip of my finger got numbed and it was really hard to cut through the strong wing. We decided to get on the bridge and take a closer look. Sadly we were late and the bridge was closed already.

Close up on the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (you're facing the Kyushu island)

Coming up next, the Kobe Chinatown, locally known as Nanking-machi (南京町). Here, almost everything is "made in China". The food, the people, daily necessities etc. Of course, a lot of pork involved here so for Muslims visiting here, I could say don't buy any meat-ish food. It's new year night so I guessed even the Chinese want to celebrate 'em. Some shops were closed. Not much to see.

Kobe Chinatown main gate

The preserved original site of the Great Earthquake near the old port. There's a memorial nearby, remembering the victims of one of the most disastrous natural disaster in Japan.

Kobe's famous spot, the Kobe Port Tower

........and the port nearby. The night view was so beautiful

Next, we headed to the Fisherman's Market. A heaven for seafood lovers. Also, the place is wallet-friendly, it's an "Eat-All-You Can", plus, with no time limits. How 'bout that? Of course you can fill your belly until the shop closed...... If you come to Kobe yet you don't have a chance to come here, don't you dare to say your trip in Kobe is complete. Mind you!

The place usually gets crowded at night for dinner but since it was a new Year's night, the place was fairly crowded, I could say. The food range are mostly seafood. Arm yourself with a plate and go for the queue. I took a crab fried rice, some sweet sour fish fillet, fried oyster, some salad and other dishes I found delicious. As most of 'em are seafood, it's easier for Muslim to pick the Halal food. If you doubt, go with your friends or just asked the staff. For your information, most of the waiters/waitresses here are Chinese. Listen to their accent. We ordered our drinks in Japanese so, we assumed they understand Japanese.

Fisherman's Market special, steamed crabs.

They have a really wide range of foods. Pizza, gratin, sushi, ice-cream, steamed crabs, sashimi, ask for it. The only thing I found lacking in this place is the toilet. Your place offers a no time limit eat-all-you-can while in the same time, you only got 2 toilets....Oh, come on! Well, I think it might be one of the business strategy. If the toilets are good, and they got maybe almost ten toilet units in there, I think no one will even want to step out of the shop, food lovers especially.

Basic Information of the Fisherman's Market:

Opening hours: 11:00 - 23:00 (Last Order 22:00)
Location: Mosaic Kobe Harborland, 2F-20
Reserve service: Available
Banquet Service: Available
Seats: 474 seats
Lowest budget for the meal: from 2000 yen

  • Adult: 1782 yen (weekdays), 2097 yen (weekend)
  • Kids (~ 12 years old): 1047 yen
  • Kids (4 - 6 y/o): 522 yen
  • Babies (~3 y/o): Free 
  • Adult: 2499 yen (weekdays), 2709 yen (weekend)
  • Kids (~ 12 years old): 1260 yen
  • Kids (4 - 6 y/o): 522 yen
  • Babies (~3 y/o): Free 
*Drink Bar (unlimited drink service) is available for 210yen (Adult and Kids-12 y/o)*
** Cotton Candy only be served on Saturday and Sunday **

Call: +81-78-360-3695

More information and pictures of the Fisherman's Market (Japanese), or English (blog).

That officially concludes my winter trip for 2010. Hello 2011!!....

1 January 2011

We took the only flight from Kobe back to Hokkaido. It was a fresh morning start on a dawn of 2011. We taught people will stay at home watching TV or visiting temples with their relatives on the morning of the new year. So, the airport won't be too congested. Turns out it was wrong...........

I guess I'll keep this boarding ticket. The date is unique. It's 11.1.1..... Plus, it was my first time taking a flight from Kobe back to Hokkaido. Usually I took ShinChitose (Hokkaido) - Haneda route. Rare item huh....!

Guess this will be my last winter trip in Japan. Maybe. Maybe not. who knows.

Thanks to my friends who accompanied me along the trip

Thanks for following my version winter trip in Japan. Hope this might be a little help for all backpackers out there. I salute you guys!!

See ya!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A worthy 2000km trip (Muroran - Yamaguchi) - Part 3

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

Now, for part 3.

30 December 2010 - Osaka

Yeah, Osaka baby!
............................... .............................. ...............................

To tell you all the truth, I'm not that excited during whole day of this trip to Osaka. Some people might be thrilled when we're talking about Osaka, the heart of Kansai region, where you kind of entering some kind of new world, unlike typical modern Japanese cities like Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo. The journey in Osaka started at noon, a little bit late from schedule. Thanks to almost fully occupied coin lockers at Umeda Station (梅田駅). I think we lost almost half an hour there, roaming inside the station looking for the vacant coin locker. There are other vacant locker but we were looking for a big size locker which is enough for the three of us. We got lucky. I found a vacant locker when I was wondering around and quickly secure it. The first step was obtaining the one-day pass from the Information Center. When you get there, there are many choices of One-day pass (what the hell?). If you don't know which one suits you better, just asked the staff (English spoken). They'll gladly suggest you this and that. Just tell them where do you want to go and they'll choose one for you. A one-day pass comes with a map in a guidebook, one-day unlimited pass of buses and subways and more importantly, free access to 20 places of tourist spot. OK, actually not all the places are free. Some requires some payment with discounts of course. That's what I love about sightseeing in Osaka. They really know how to attract tourist.

So, we got the map along with the guidebook. It costs us 2000 yen each. Another hurdle coming up. This time, how to survive the subways and trains network. This is Osaka. Where subways and trains run side by side. Literally maybe. At first I led the team and went looking for the subway entrance. 20 minutes later, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Down (- -;)

Our first destination was a skyscraper with an observation deck. Known as Umeda Sky Building- Floating Garden, it stands out proud in the heart of Osaka. From JR Osaka Station or Umeda Station (Hankyu line) walk for about 15 minutes to the skyscraper. It was raining lightly that day, lucky to have an umbrella along. Look for the sign around the LG floor and just follow the direction. We got the pass to the floating garden for free, since we were using the One-day pass (Surutto Kansai) or else, pay 700 yen for adult, 500 yen for junior high/high school, elementary school for 300 yen and 100 yen for babies. The observation deck opens from 10:00 a.m to 22:30 p.m with the last admission at 22:00 p.m. The times are subject to change, depending on the season.

Reached the top floor. The wind was quite strong. Packed my camera and put it inside my waterproof jacket and decided to walk around the observation deck, despite of the rain. It might be a chance in a lifetime. I might not getting any chances after this so I thought I'd regret if I miss the chance.

The 'Lumi-Deck'. Specially designed for couples. Romantic words will appear on the floor and is visible on night.

The sign showing you are at 173 meters above the ground

View of Osaka from the top

Headed to our next destination, the Shitennoji Temple (四天王寺). The moment we went out from the subway, we saw a temple. Assuming it was the temple we're looking at that time, we just entered it, just to found ourselves in a cemetery site.

And guess what, we found this deity (??) at the same site. Don't tell me what the hell is this. It's Japan.

At one of the temple nearby. I asked an old lady at the temple, what was written on that paper around the temple's main hall wall. She said, they are the names of companies which donated and sponsored the temple.

The smell of burned incense sticks were very strong at this time.

Took a scenic rout to reach the Shitennoji Temple (actually we were lost at that time, that's why we took a detour), and found this stacked tombstones (??)

This is the Shitennoji Temple.

Headed to Hard Rock Cafe- Osaka. Some people have their very own way of telling others 'Hey I've been there you know'. In my case, one of us went there to bought T-shirts of Hard Rock Cafe- Osaka, including those booked by his relatives in Malaysia. 

At the entrance of the Hard Rock Cafe, found this. Nice decor though.

Flight to heaven......nah, actually it's an escalator to another observation deck from a skyscraper. This time it's WTC Cosmo Tower. We chose to go at night for a different view on Osaka. The observation deck is higher than the Umeda Sky building. It stands on top of the building at 252 meters above the ground. The place is open from 13:00 p.m to 22:00 p.m on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays and open till 21:30 on weekdays. Entrance fees are 800 yen for adult, junior high school 400 yen and elementary school 200 yen. 

Night view of Osaka

Last destination of the night Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the largest public aquarium in the world. Urmmm, actually it had already closed at that time. Just a snap of the illumination outside.

Oh, oh before that, we had our dinner at the nearby Turkish Restaurant. It's called bab-al Hayat restaurant. What's good with the restaurant is, they offer the 'Eat-all-you-can' style but, within 70 minutes only, with only 1700 yen per person. There you go. Eat anything you want without limits, after a hectic and busy day, that was heaven. Ask people around if you don't know how to get there.

Now, the stomach is full, it's time for a good sleep. We headed back to our hotel. In Osaka and most of big cities in Japan, they have this thing called the Capsule Hotel. The hotel is a business hotel, aimed for typical Japanese salary-man or budget travelers. You will be sleeping inside a unit in a long rectangular case. To make you easy to imagine it, the unit looks almost the same as the 'refrigerator' in the mortgage. Inside each unit there are TV, mirror, digital alarm with radio,  a futon (blanket) and a pillow. For each customers privacy, every unit comes with a plastic blind (pull down to close). Upon check-in, each customer will be provided with a pajama. You have an option to choose a stay with sauna or not. The price for a night (check-out time is 10:00 a.m) is 2300 yen pax.

For more information check here (Japanese only). Reservation through telephone only. Check this out too.

That's it for Osaka. A city which is so hard for me to handle.

I'll be expecting you on Part 4.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

A worthy 2000km trip (Muroran - Yamaguchi) - Part 2

Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

Now, the second part of the trip.

29 December 2010 - Kyoto (京都)

The day began when we arrived at Kyoto station at around 0615 in the morning. It was a cold morning. Woke up fresh and excited to start the one day journey in Kyoto. We were supposed to put our luggage at our friend's house. Went to his house and had our breakfast there. He was our guide for the whole day. At around 11:00 a.m, we started the journey and went to our first destination, Kyoto's proud Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) or the Golden Pavilion. Before I went there, I thought the place are secluded from the city, far into the forest and untouched by modern developments. My thought was wrong. The place are only about 500 meters than a main road nearby. Also in Kyoto, you might opt for a one-day pass (available at any tourist info center or public transportation). As for us, we bought a one-day pass (city bus only) at 500yen inside a city bus. The one-day pass may include unlimited subway-pass, city buses and JR buses.

Walk from the bus stop will take around 10 minutes before you reach the main entrance. A very beautiful garden full of greenery will greet you at the main entrance. From the main entrance continue walking until you arrive at the ticket counter. The admission for adults would be 400yen. I like how they design the ticket. It's quite big but rare, you don't find other places with this kind of ticket. You might don't want to even fold it.   

The admission ticket to Kin-kakuji. You may try to understand what is written on it though. Good luck then.

Let me remind you, we went in winter season, yet so many people were there. Mind you, this is one of Japan's top tourist spot, so how'd you expect the crowd will be in summer? Well, I suggest you to come in low peak season such as winter, so you don't have to get in the crowd while struggling for the best picture with the golden temple on the background. You DSLR maniac out there, I do understand your passion.....................................really I am.

No matter how many times you push the trigger, the picture itself is such an addictive. The more you snap, the more you gets addicted. Go experiment your camera!

Additional note: Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) counterparts also in Kyoto is Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺), the Temple of the Silver Pavilion. Unlike Kinkaku-ji, the GINkaku-ji exterior is not silver in colour.

Go try your luck. Throw the money into the bowl (it's in the middle, see that?)  and ...... you just made the temple's man richer. Or, is it counted as a donation? Why waste your penny? This is not the only donation 'checkpoint' in the temple. There are two or maybe three 'checkpoints' in the temple area, if I'm not mistaken. Just...................... why the hell people are throwing money man! There are lot of poor people, homeless on the street. Why the hell you don't throw those pennies to them? They needed those money more than the temple I guess. Why, because the temple are getting financial support from the government. Come on guys......wake up!

This is where the visitors hung their wishes........... only to be read with other visitors. Well, it's pretty normal if you write "I wanna get married soon", "Oh god please let me pass the national exam" or maybe "God, please cure my cancer. I swear I didn't do it. They forced me.", some stuffs like that.

But if you were one of the temple authorities, what would you do with this kind of wish?

Read it loud and clear fellas

I would tolerate with that, considering him as young boy who haven't hit his puberty yet..... but, I wouldn't tolerate with this dude who wrote this:

Obviously he/she is a Muslim, yet why he wrote the wish and more importantly with the Arabic word, Allahuakbar (Allah is great)? 

Bad luck tickets

This is where the visitors hang the 'bad luck' kuji (籤),a lucky draw ticket. Some visitors will visit the temple in the first day of a new year for example, and draw a ticket. If the ticket writes kyou (凶), which means bad luck, evil or disaster, they will hang it here. Maybe to get rid of the bad luck I think. What would happen if the 'bad luck ticket' gets loose? No idea. Release to the world, perhaps.
Yatsuhashi, the famous souvenir in Kyoto. More types of yatsuhashi here.

Oh, don't forget to grab your souvenirs from stalls just before the temple exit gate. They'll be lot of candies or traditional Japanese sweets. Try some before you buy. The hawkers understand some English, though very limited. If you don't know which one to buy or if you're on a short budget, yet you don't wanna miss your souvenir, look for a traditional Japanese snacks called Yatsuhashi (八橋), which I could say a MUST if you ever set your foot here in Kyoto. 

Next destination will be Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), also one of the famous landmark in Kyoto. Along the way to Kiyomizu-dera, you'll find a shop districts selling souvenirs and traditional confectioneries. Nothing interesting for me there, though building here looks traditional and antique. You could really feel how Kyoto looks alike hundreds years ago. Imagine the lights were once lanterns, car buzzing on the street were once horse-cart, people who are wearing western clothes today were once wearing kimonos, everything you can imagine (from anime maybe). This is Kyoto, heart of the ancient Japan.

Actually you don't have to imagine that. If you're lucky, you may catch a sight of few women in kimono walking nearby those temples or tourist sights. My wild guess is, those two girls in kimono were being rent to accompany those two men. Plus, one of the guy is a white guy. Hey! Asian girls look high to you white guy. Come to Japan and go hunt them cowboy!

Also, don't forget to look for a man with his rickshaw. Just like the one below:

Experience walking at the back alley of the houses to get the feel of how the ancient Kyoto was like. Don't afraid to explore any paths or back alleys you find interesting. Just be careful not to trespass into other people's property. If you find yourselves in the middle of nowhere, go ask the locals. If that doesn't help, look for where the crowd is. Then work your way to your destination.

This is a shopping district area at a sloped hill leading to the Kiyomizu-dera. There are simply too many choices. Work your way up through the crowd. Good for your stamina.

The harmony of the old and modern buildings.

Finally arrive at the Kiyomizu-dera main entrance. Another flight of stairs to go.

A close-up view on the landmark

I realized something strange here in Japan. In temple area, mind you this SHOULD be a religious and sacred area, you could find couples dating, publicly. There's even kuji and o-mamori (御守り - refer part 1) specially designed for couple. Wh...What? To promote love? I understand that. Any human will need love. But I don't think those couples show some respect at the temple. No wonder there are saying in Japan, "Born as a Shinto, married as a Christian, died as a Buddhist". Strangely when I asked my friend 'which religion are you?', they don't have answers. This is the problem of youngsters in Japan nowadays. 

You tell me

A komainu, a common sight at temples.

  • My trip in Kyoto was a ONE-DAY trip. Depends on the season, you could visit up to maybe 4 to 5 temples or other tourist sights in Kyoto. If you are the type who savor every places you visit, every food you try and the kind of "I wanna try everything", you'll gonna be probably need a week or more for yourself in Kyoto alone.
  • You can opt for an English guide. My suggestion, try Johnnie's Kyoto Walking. It receives good reputation for it's service and English tourist friendly.
  • For those who loves a real backpacking challenge, or traveling alone to challenge yourself, try this Kyoto Walk map. Mind you, there are hundreds maybe thousands of temples in Kyoto alone. This map provide a very useful information (opening/closing time, entrance fees, nearest station etc.). I personally recommend this downloadable booklet.
  • Refer wikitravel about Kyoto for more information.
to be continued on Part 3

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    A worthy 2000km trip (Muroran - Yamaguchi) - Part 1

    Assalamualaikum w.b.t (Peace be upon you)

    26th December 2010

    Welcome back again on English side! yeah! It's been awhile since I'm writing in English. Well, this time it's about my trip to Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi is a province, in a southern tip of Honshu, the biggest island of Japan. The reason I went here was to visit my old friend who is now studying in Yamaguchi University. Another reason is, (well it's quite embarassing though), I've never went onboard a Shinkansen. Yeah, I'm in my second year in Japan, yet never been on a Shinkansen. haha...

    The trip began from Muroran, my temporary hometown in Japan. I was with my senior. We took a train to Shin-Chitose airport. It was snowing so badly, we were worried the flight may delayed. Nothings happened luckily. The first flight of Skymark from Hokkaido to Tokyo. ahh, by the way Skymark is a low-cost airline serving limited routes in Japan. Skymark served under JAL (Japan Airlines) while another low-cost airlines, AirDo serves under All Nippon Airways (ANA). The flight took an hour and a half. Touched down at Haneda airport and went directly to Shinagawa-eki (Shinagawa station) for my maiden shinkansen ride. The shinkansen model is Nozomi (33). I'm quite excited actually. Going inside the shinkansen, nothing's different from a normal train. It's just the seat area is spacy and of course, the speed is really fast. So, the journey was a 4-hour journey to our destination, Shin-Yamaguchi. Still there's another train to take until the final destination Higashi-Shinkawa (東新川). Another 40 minutes to spend on train. It's a good thing every train in Japan are provided with heater, be it an Inter-city shinkansen or a suburb one-man-train.

    That's our ride!!

    Arrived at my friend's house. Had a great dinner with them. Rice with a keropok ikan from Malaysia, my all-time-favourite hot sambal and meat curry. Simple yet enough to make us full. Thanks guys! It makes the total of almost 2000km today worthy.

    That's it for today. Damn tired. Need to take a rest for tomorrow's journeys are still long.

    27th December 2010

    Second Day. We started getting around late actually. Went around Yamaguchi city famous spot, Shimonoseki (下関). The place is the tip of Honshu, where you can clearly see the Kyuushu on the other side. We make our first stop at Karato ichiba, a famous fish market in Shimonoseki. Unfortunately, the market was closed, so we just went killing our time at the bay. Before we left, we bought some souvenirs from shops nearby. Yamaguchi is really famous with blowfish. Blowfish, pufferfish, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, toadies, honey toads, or sea squab are all the same fish with different name. Here in Japan we called it fugu. Read more about fugu from wikipedia, here.

    So, what did I bought? It was a fugu-pie, a sweet butter cookie look alike (not really a pie actually, but Japanese tends to call it a pie. Don't know why..). And a Kyushu limited edition of Country Ma'am (yam flavor). Also not to forget is fugu burger. Not in a shape of burger actually. It's more to hotdog. Huh! long it tastes good. Really good actually, you won't know it's a fish actually.

    Fugu burger
    Country Ma'am - Kyushu limited edition

    From the bay area, you can watch a massive structure, the Kanmonkyo bridge that connects Honshu island and Kyushu island. While you enjoy the breathtaking view, feel the light breeze slaps your face and watch ships passing the straits. There's an observation deck on top a hill. I forgot the hill's name, sorry. The night view was superb! And, we found something really interesting. We found an ad at in the observation deck. "Run across the strait through an undersea tunnel". Yet, when we tried to look for the entrance, found nothing. Got no clue where's the entrance really located.

    Dinner time. We were brought to a restaurant specialized in kujira menu. Kujira is a Japanese word for whale. Yeah, never really thought I would've a chance to taste the biggest mammal's meat. Taste like.........undiscribable. What? You wanna say I support whaling? (despite of International condemn over Japan whaling activity) Go on. As long as it tastes good!

    See that red-tipped onion (??). I was told by my friend, if you feel nausea when eating whale's meat, suck the tip of it. A bit sour actually.

    That's it for Yamaguchi. Tomorrow will be Hiroshima. Really wanted to explore Yamaguchi more but, a lot of problems occurred and we got a very tight schedule to follow. I guess I should visit there another time. Maybe.

    28 December 2010

    Hiroshima here I come! All this time I heard about Hiroshima, i can't help to think, "Are there still remaining of radioactive residue"or you know...something "atomic". Actually no, and Hiroshima is on par with other modern cities in Japan, maybe better I think. Speaking of Hiroshima, one cannot miss the chance to visit Itsukushima Island (厳島) or famously known as Miyajima Island (宮島). Almost anything on that island can be considered UNESCO world heritage site (excluding all the souvenir's shop or restaurant). The Miyajima island is only accessible by boat operating from the mainland. There are two companies operating the boat service. I advise you to buy a One-Day-Pass (840 yen), which include return ticket to and from Miyajima and one-day-pass for tram which runs from Miyajima station all the way to Hiroshima station (64 minutes). Why? because the tram (Green Mover) will make a stop at genbaku do-mu (原爆ドーム) station, or the atomic memorial dome (48 minutes from Miyajima). Or if you prefer, drop by at any station you like and go explore Hiroshima. Be sure to bring your own umbrella if you don't have one... Or, simply watch the weather forecast on the morning. It's winter season and it rains sometimes. Fortunately, when we took our group pictures with the background of Torii, the weather was clear. Read more about torii here. It's optional to enter the Itsukushima shrine but I bet you'll surely regret as hell if you don't enter this magnificent orange-coloured shrine. The hallways and the praying area is a must see. Also, inside the shrine you can buy an o-mamori (御守り), some kind of good luck amulets.

    The one-day-pass (840 yen). Available at the jetty counter.

    Getting out from the shrine, you may explore other part of the island. As for us, it was raining lightly so, another time perhaps. That's the price you have to pay for a vacation in winter. Duh....

    Extra information: Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near the shrine. To this day, pregnant women are supposed to retreat to the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are terminally ill or the very elderly whose passing has become imminent. Burials on the island are still forbidden.

    After several 'photo sessions' around the island, it's time to go back to mainland. Before that, don't forget to grab some souvenirs. Well, Miyajima is famous with it's momiji manjuu, a traditional Japanese confectionery made from flour, rice powder and buckwheat and a filling of an (red bean paste), made from boiled azuki beans and sugar. Aside from the momiji manjuu, visitors can also buy a shakushi (wooden rice scoop) for souvenirs. Miyajima Shakushi are still handmade today as they used to be in ancient times, displaying the impressive beauty of their curves.

    This is how momiji manjuu looks alike.
    Watch the process of making momiji manjuu from shops nearby
    The world's largest spatula (guess everyone are so keen about world's largest......)   

    Speaking of Miyajima, there are deers living freely on the island, cageless. They are tame and do not attack visitors. Just be careful as they might eat any paper or cloth you have with you. Not sure whether you can feed them or not but you may get close enough to them to take photos or something. They won't run. Got used to people already.

    Deers around the island

    The torii itself makes a good background

    Back on mainland and heading next to Hiroshima's must-see attraction, the atomic dome memorial. Got onboard the green tram for 48 minutes. To get to the memorial, just walk across the road. You should be able to see it from the station. Luckily the rain had stopped, yet it was still cold outside. Frankly speaking, I found nothing interesting there. Well, if you look around, locals lead a normal life, as if nothing happened to this place that once experienced the first atomic blast on the planet. Not far from the historic dome memorial, there's Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Again nothing interesting here except the Peace Flame. The Peace Flame is another monument to the victims of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, but it has an additional symbolic purpose. The flame has burned continuously since it was lit in 1964, and will remain lit until all nuclear bombs on the planet are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Will it be a reality? I don't think so.

    Night view of the A-dome (looks SCARY huh)

    p/s: I salute Jan Letzel, a designer who designed the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition (before the atomic blast). Why? because the bomb blasted almost directly above the dome at that time. If that guy still alive, I would ask him, "Could you build more buildings like that. Nuclear war seems imminent dude! pleaaaaase!"

    In front of the first building ever experience the atomic blast 

    The trip in Hiroshima is incomplete without Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki. What's the difference of Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and other places in Japan? To make it easier to differentiate, Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is served baked, readily eaten, while other okonomiyaki, you only get served the ingredients for the okonomiyaki. In other words, you make your own okonomiyaki on a hot-plate in front of you.

    Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (costs around JPY1200). I could say half of it are veggies. We bought it for three of us but still unable to finish it. Really different from pizza. 

    That concludes our one-day-excursion in Hiroshima. Tomorrow will be the climax of this trip, once the capital of this Land of the Rising Sun, Kyoto. That night we rushed to Hiroshima Station to catch an overnight bus to Kyoto. Took the cheapest bus which cost us JPY3000 each.  The journey took about 8 hours with few stops. Traveling by bus in Japan definitely saves a lot of money, if you don't mind to hump your ass for over than 8 hours in the bus (Depends on the destination).

    See ya on Part 2