The research says that you don’t really want to read about our vacation (see here),  but its too late to stop now.

Yesterday, we visited the Zōzō-ji temple….

And today, our last full day in Japan, we checked out the Tsukiji Fish Market, through which all things marine must go before arriving on Tokyo tables.

Guest post from Heidi.

OK folks… Here’s what you’ve been waiting for: Heidi’s take on Japan.


I love Japan! It’s clean and safe, the trains and subways run like clockwork, the people are friendly and the food is delicious!

  • We’ve been here for almost 2 weeks and have seen 2 homeless people.
  • The trains and subways are wonderful. Fast, convenient, and punctual, they are a traveller’s dream. We really do have a lot to learn in North American. Just a bit of trivia … Tokyo’s Shinjuku station handles 3.5 million people a day (yes, that’s the correct number) and has 200 exits.
  • No one crosses against the lights or j-walks, but of course we do. We often left a local at the curb.
  • People are still allowed to smoke in restaurants. We often returned to our hotel smelling like smoke.
  • Japan is earthquake country (as we experienced a couple of nights ago). Every apartment building has a small staircase built into the outside of the building. There are red triangles visible on one or two windows on each floor of buildings higher than 3 stories; they are evacuation areas. Most disconcerting of all was the sign we saw at an intersection in the town of Arashiyama; it read “Evacuation Area for Tourists”. Yikes!
  • Did you know that Japan’s washroooms have heated toilet seats? They’re everywhere! I read somewhere that if the Japanese turned off the heating element on the toilet seats, the country could shut down a power plant. In many public washrooms, they only have cold water to wash your hands, but the toilet seats are heated! Not only that, most of these toilets double as a bidet. While I’m not against a stand-alone bidet, my gross meter flew off the scale when I noticed these toilet/bidet hybrids in public washrooms. Yes ladies, you can “refresh” yourself at the airport, shopping mall, local restaurant or even at a temple!
  • For some reason, the toilet seats on one of the bullet trains we travelled in were not heated. I guess they need all the electricity to power the locomotive.
  • Finally, the Japanese have embraced Christmas in every way imaginable. There are Christmas trees and ornaments are everywhere! The Japanese love consumerism and they have embraced the pomp and pageantry of the season.

We’re having a wonderful time in the wonderful land of the rising sun. It is different from Canada in so many ways, yet I still feel comfortable here.

地震 = Earthquake

Things got a bit wobbly in Kyoto last night.  Magnitude 4.2 earthquake at 10:30, resulted in some mild shaking in our hotel room at 10:30.  More here.

We got back to Tokyo in time to watch the sun set on Tokyo from the Sky View observation deck. I know, I know… a sunset does not a good photo make. But, some of the miniatures in the fading light turned out quite well, IMHO.

Boxing Day Torii

Our last day in Kyoto and we split up again. Heidi and I spent half the day at Fushimi-Inara Taisha, where thousands of orange/red torii (gates) line the paths up the mountain. It was crazy busy at the base, but like most tourist spots became more peaceful and pleasant the farther up the hill you go.

We came back to the Kyoto city centre for lunch, and took a chance on another tiny restaurant. This one had space for 6 customers (tops), while the chef and his wife work in a really tiny kitchen in the other half of the space. One of the other patrons spoke reasonable English and told us that the chef had taken over from his father, and that she had been eating there for 40 years. As usual the meal, sashimi, was wonderful.

This photo shows the chef and his wife in the kitchen half of the restaurant.

Another tiny restaurant

Xmas in Hiroshima

Yesterday was Xmas and we bulleted to Hiroshima for the day. Did you know that 2014 is the 50th anniversary of Shinkansen service in Japan. Fiftieth! Puts all other rapid transit systems, or (for Toronto) dreams thereof, to shame

Our time in Hiroshima was largely taken up visiting the memorials, there are many, for those killed by the first A-bomb in 1945. It was a sobering day. Hard to imagine what it must have been like, and why it was thought to be necessary.

We had lunch at a market in the city centre where there were 3 floors of small restaurants selling different variations of okonomiyaki, a crepe – covered in cabbage, bacon, egg and noodles. Cooked on the counter in front of you, and served with special sauce… mmmm, yummy.