Adventures in Japan – part 1

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Ever since I was young, I’ve wanted to go to Japan. I’ve always had a great love for Japanese culture, music, and food. So getting to finally experience it in person was incredible. I’ve watched lots of videos on things to see, good things to know, and helpful phrases for tourists. But the experience of being there was better than I had imagined. It actually rained most of the time I was there, so if the pictures appear a bit grey, that’s why 😉

Day 1

I arrived at Narita airport, cleared customs and immigration, then exchanged my money. Then it was time to take the train. I took the escalator downstairs and picked up my JR rail pass (which would be activated later). I also purchased a PASMO card. You can buy individual tickets for each trip, but it’s far easier to swipe your PASMO or SUICA card each time you need. You can also reload your card with more funds if they get low. I then asked the information desk which train I needed to take to get to Asakusa (the area I was staying in). She told me which train to take, which track I needed, and the arrival time.

The trip to Asakusa took about an hour. The train was completely silent, despite the fact that it filled up quickly. I got off at the right station, pulled out my map, and tried to figure out where to go. A friendly businessman saw me looking confused and pointed me in the right direction. If you see a police box, or koban, they’re also happy to help you out. I made it to the hostel, checked in, and spent the next hour or so making up my bed, unpacking, and unwinding. I wandered around a bit that evening, but was pretty tired and went to bed early.

Day 2

I was still in recovery mode the next day, so I decided to stay in the area and explore Asakusa. I walked over to Senso-ji (the oldest temple in Tokyo). I started at the main gate and wandered down Nakamise-dori. It was full of vendors selling everything from kimono to freshly roasted chestnuts. People were milling around, taking photos, and enjoying the atmosphere. Many dressed up in rental kimono and were taking photos of themselves in front of the temple. Getting to soak in the atmosphere was amazing!

While I was there, a businessman asked if he could practice his English with me. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I agreed. He then gave me a guided tour of the temple, explaining some of the history and background of the area. I got to try omikuji (random fortunes) while I was there too. For 100 yen (about a dollar) you can take a small wooden box, shake it, then pull out a long wooden stick that has a symbol on it. You find the drawer with the corresponding symbol and pull out your fortune. I got a “normal/good” fortune on my first go. But if you draw a bad fortune, you’re supposed to tie it to a nearby rack so it won’t come true.

We parted ways and I continued exploring. I found a couple of other shrines nearby and a gluten-free bakery. I then walked to Sumida park, and sat quietly on a bench with a coffee, enjoying the view of the river. It was a lovely recovery day. The next day I planned to figure out the train system and head to Shibuya!

How was your weekend?

 

Traveling to Ireland & Scotland

I had the most amazing opportunity to visit Ireland and Scotland last year. Both places had been on my bucket list since I was young and finally getting to experience them was incredible. They hold a special place in my heart and I want to go back again. Scotland especially felt like home.

I’ve included a few pictures from Ireland. As you can see, the green Irish countryside isn’t just a stereotype, it’s actually that green in person! The first image is from the grounds of the hotel I was staying at in county Meath. The next three are from Loughcrew, the site of megalithic burial grounds dating back to roughly 3500 and 3300 BC. The final two are from the Hill of Tara, containing a number of ancient monuments, and according to tradition, was the seat of the High King of Ireland. It’s a beautiful country and the locals were warm and friendly. Many of the days were overcast, and you always had to expect a chance of rain, but the weather was lovely and the temperature warm. As long as you had a raincoat you were good to go.

 

After spending some time in Ireland, I took a short flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. I spent the first couple of days wandering the streets of the Royal Mile, exploring as much as I could. The first three images are from Calton Hill, which is home to a few different monuments. The first is the Nelson monument, commemorating Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalger in 1805. The second is a view off the back of the hill and the third is the National Monument. It remembers the sacrifices of the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. The fourth image is from Edinburgh Castle. The next day I took a 12 hour bus tour to the Scottish Highlands to get a taste of the countryside. The fifth picture is a view from Loch Ness. The sixth is Urquhart Castle, which played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. The final image is from Glencoe.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed a small glimpse into my Ireland and Scotland trip. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. What is your favourite place to travel? Where do you want to go next?