Tag Archives: Travelling

Cycling the shimanami kaido in Japan

Interested in cycling? A few weeks ago, two friends and I went on quite a long cycling trip from Onomichi in Honshu (the largest and most populous island of Japan) to Imabari in Shikoku (Japan’s smallest major island), famously known as Shimanami Kaido.

The trip took four days, and covered 160 kms by bicycle in total, and began with us setting off from Kyoto on a Monday around 12 pm and arriving in Onomichi at around 5 pm. We rented bicycles from the “Giant store in Onomichi” which we had reserved in advance, and rode them to our guesthouse “Anago-no-Nedoko”. Apart from being conveniently close to Onomichi Station, the Giant Store, and the start line of the cycle route, Anago has a special charm about the way it all fits so perfectly in to an eel-like alley. Early Tuesday morning, day 2, we set out after having breakfast at the guesthouse and boarded a ferry to the first small island, marking the start of the 80km route to the other side.

From thereon we cycled through six islands each with breath-taking scenery, crossing the ocean along six bridges, each an engineering marvel. Upon arriving at Imabari (Shikoku), we parked our bicycles overnight and then took the train to Matsuyama with the goal of going to “Dogo-onsen“, said to be the oldest bathhouse in Japan. We first checked in at Cinnamon guesthouse – also super cosy and convenient – and just as we were finally about to leave for Dogo-onsen to soothe our aching muscles, one guest told us that it was closed that day! It was later revealed that the famous bathhouse closes on just one day each year for cleaning and it just so happened to be the day we decide to go there. What are the odds?

On Wednesday, Day 3, we set out early from Matsuyama and took the train back to Imabari to collect our bicycles for the 80km return trip. On the way back we picked up speed to avoid the upcoming rain, but still managed to take a few breaks, including one at the kind Mari-san who gave us the sweetest mikan (Japanese mandarins) for free. We also made a quick pit stop at an island called Michikajima, which is officially the tiniest Island I’ve had the fortune of exploring. By 6pm that day we reached our end destination, feeling super chuffed at ourselves, and stayed for one more night at Anago guesthouse before making our way back to Kyoto on Thursday, Day 4, just in time for school.

This definitely goes down as one of my top 5 experiences in Japan! Shimanami Kaido is incredibly beautiful, even during winter, and I highly recommend you try it!



今治に着き、松山行きの列車に乗って、目的地の道後温泉へ行きました。(日本一の古い温泉)。シナモンゲストハウスにチェックインして、温泉へ向かおうとしたとき、ゲストハウスの他のお客様に「今日、道後温泉は閉まっているよ」と言われました。その有名な温泉は一年一日大掃除をするそうで、私たちはちょうどその日に着きました! なんてこった!



Mount Fuji

On an early Friday morning the 10th September, my friends Ashraf, Atreya, Daisy, Ryan, Tasneem and I set out to climb mount Fuji and visit the amusement park Fuji Q Highland the day after.

We set out from Doshisha University in Kyoto with a car from Times Car Rental. The deal was slightly better than expected because they upgraded us to a bigger car for free.

Arriving at Fuji-Yoshida (the north side), we started the climb about 8 p.m. It was wind-still and a quite comfortable temperature at the 5th station. While climbing up, we took a rest at all of the upcoming stations and decided on the spot to stay for two hours at the 8th station’s mountain hut. We went to sleep around 1 am and woke up at 3 am to climb the last bit up to the summit. It was freezing cold and the wind was very strong at the top, but we made it just in time to see the stunning sunrise.

After walking around the crater one lap, we started the descent around 6 a.m and it took about 3 hours to get down to the car again. It was very tough. In hindsight, climbing Fuji-san sleep deprived and jet lagged the day after coming back to  Japan from Sweden was not such a good idea. My body felt incredibly heavy and I definitely got mountain sick. However, we all did a good job on planning the trip and we had the right gear with us.

After resting, we went to an onsen facing fuji-san and stayed at a guesthouse for the night. The following day, we went up early to go to FujiQ Highland: an amusement park famous for having world-record roller coasters and one of the world´s scariest ghost house.

Take a look at my Gaijinpot post about FujiQ highland







Beauty of Shirakawago

Do the names Gifu and Kanazawa ring any bells? Or maybe they are a faint memory hidden in the recesses of your mind?  In this blog post I will shed some light on these two culturally rich prefectures in Japan.

Not long ago, I rented a car in Kyoto and explored the area northeast of Kansai.

The first stop was Gujo Hachiman, a small mountain village that takes pride in its water and is famous for its dance festival every summer, the Gujo Odori. It’s said that the dance goes on all night on each of the four consecutive Obon days in mid August. Another funny fact is that Gujo is the place where Japan’s famous food replicas were invented, and are still produced there today.

As the sun began to set, we checked in at the cozy Sakura guest house in Takayama. Before going to sleep, we had a Nightcap at the Red Hill Bar in a hidden place a bit far from the central area! The Morning Market was also decent, but filled with strange and often unnecessary things. The highlight of that excursion was that I was able to finally try goma(sesame seed) flavored ice cream! It was overpriced but delicious.

The second stop was our main destination, the amazing Shirakawago village in Gifu Prefecture. It reminded me of Sweden in many ways, except for all the Japanese people there. There was a fresh mountain river running through the valley by the village. The local village temple had a fire that was perpetually burning downstairs, and even during the hot summer months! I heard that it was to keep insects away.

We spent the last day in Kanazawa, where we stayed at another guest house. The enthusiastic owner there showed us the true meaning of Japanese Omotenashi. The house is called Akatsukiya and is a cultural heritage site. It also has a beautiful garden that can be viewed from the dining area.

The final destination of the trip was Kanazawa’s Myoryuji  (Ninja) temple! In reality, it has nothing to do with Ninjas, but the temple was built by the Maeda lords of feudal Japan and has many deceptive defenses. There were hidden rooms and traps, and scaled a total of seven stories! We first spoke to a rude Japanese woman who gave us misleading information about parking spaces. However, the experience was saved when a guide from the temple came to the rescue!





日没が近づいたとき夕日をせに、私たちは高山にある居心地のいい桜ゲストハウスにチェックいんしました。夕食を食べ、就寝前に中心部から少し離れていて、見つけにくい場所にあるRed Hillというバーで寝酒を飲みました。そしてまたゲストハウスに戻り旅の第一日目を終えました。高山市の朝市はなじみのないものや、観光で来ている私たちには不要なものが売ってあったため、そこでは何も買いませんでした。しかし、その朝、私はついに!高くて美味しい胡麻アイスクリームを食べることができました。





Beautiful cherry blossom in Yoshino

The most beautiful cherry blossoms in Japan?

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I took the train from Kyoto to Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture. About one and a half hours later, we arrived at Yoshino, which is said to be the most famous sakura viewing spot in Japan. The cherry trees there are said to have been planted during the 700th century, and the mountain is covered by many different varieties of cherry blossoms now.

When we arrived, we took the cable car up the mountain and walked up the rest of the way. We had udon for lunch at a small local restaurant which had low tables on tatami mats and a spectacular view of the town and mountain. After a while, we arrived at the famous Kane-no-Torii, which is said to have been made from the same metal as the Big Buddha in Todaiji in Nara. It is one of the three most famous torii gates in Japan, along with the one at Itsukushima-jinja in Miyajiima, and the one at Tennoji in Osaka.





Travelling west towards Onomichi, Hiroshima, Iwakuni and Miyajima

Once again I used the discount ticket (seishun 18 kippu) to travel deeper into western Japan. I began the journey from Kansai, and the first stop of the day was Onomochi, which is famous for having many temples despite its small size. I went on the “Temple walk“, starting with a 5 min cable car ride up the local mountain. The senkoji park provided a spectacular view of the town. On the way down, I saw many things: from small ojisozan statues to a wild cat fight. Later, I enjoyed a beautiful and delicious waffle and then walked around the town until I decided to stop for some excellent ramen. Having appeased my appetite, I continued onwards to Hiroshima.

On the second day, I didn’t use the seishun ticket, but instead spent the day roaming around Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a comfortable town with wide streets and friendly people. I had lunch by the riverside and helped translate  “The possibilities are endless” to “可能性は無限大” for an old Japanese man who had a cap with that saying in English。

At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, I was approached by many high school students to help them with their school project and folded many paper cranes, which are a symbol for peace. I felt a little melancholy the rest of the day after seeing the seeing the horrors of the atomic bomb and its effect on the people of Hiroshima at the museum. Before the sun set, I went to Shukkeien Garden, and enjoyed the sight of bonsai trees and many turtles and carps in the pond. As it was getting late, I continued to “okonomimura“, which is a portmanteau of the words for Japanese pizza (okonomiyaki) and village (mura). There, I enjoyed the pleasant of Hiroshima-style onomoiyaki made from noodles and a lot of vegetables.

On the third day, I woke up early and took the train towards Iwakuni. The lunch of the day was skewered meat, squid and a beer, which I enjoyed while sitting down by the river close to the beautiful Kintai bridge. After that, I took the ferry over to miyajima and went straight to my japanese style inn (ryokan) to drop off my luggage. One of the many goals for trip was to hike Mount Misen, so I took the cable car up to the peak and gazed upon a spectacular view.  On the way down, I descended thousands of stone steps and stopped by many small shrines and temples, including the amazing buddhist temple, Daisho-in.

I ate a full course dinner at a restaurant called Mametanuki and I finished the night by taking night shots of Itsukushima-jinja. Finally, I took a dip in the ofuro (japanese style bath) and went back to my room and slept like a log.

At 10:05 AM on the next day, the lady in charge of the inn woke me up and kindly reminded me about the checkout time at 10:00. Leaving the hotel, I went back to Itsukushima jinja and bought a book called “shuinchou“, which is a special book used to collect stamps and hand-drawn calligraphy from the temples and shrines in Japan.

Once back at mainland Japan, I took a 7-hour journey back home to Kansai using local trains.



二日目、私は青春18切符を使用せず、その代わりに広島市内をうろうろしました。広島は通りが広く、また親切な人が多い快適な町です。川岸のお店に寄って昼ごはんを食べたとき、英語で”The possibilities are endless”と書いてある帽子を被っているおじいさんがいました。その人に、この意味は何かと尋ねられたので「可能性は無限大」と訳してあげました。

広島平和記念公園では、高校生たちの学校のプロジェクトの一貫として平和のシンボルである折り鶴を一緒に折るように声を掛けられました。平和記念公園にいる間たくさん高校生に出会ったので、その都度一緒に鶴を折りました。原爆資料館で被爆した方々の影響や原爆の恐ろしさを見たあとは一日中もの悲しい気持ちでした。資料館をあとにして、陽が沈む前に縮景園に行って盆栽の木や池にいた亀や鯉の姿を見て楽しみました。だんだん辺りが暗くなってきたときに、日本のピザ(お好み焼き)のお店が集まる村、”お好み村” へ、足を延ばしました。そこで麺とたくさんの野菜で作られた広島風のお好み焼きを食べました。