An Autumn Japan Trip

Hiroshima
View of Motoyasu River from the top of Hiroshima Castle

In November 2019, I took my parents to Japan for their first time – and my seventh – over two weeks. This series is to be read as a diary, and serves as a place to showcase the pictures taken and preserve the memories made.

I’ll dispense with the typical exposition that outlines the rationale and contextualises the background behind a trip post. Guys, we’re talking about Japan: a country I’ve visited no less than seven times. Part of the reason – and I’m sure other Japanophiles will agree – is that each time feels like the first. Even for me – often visiting with the sole purpose of eating – Japan’s oxymoronic-yet-harmonious culture, the depth of its cuisine and plenitude of scenery makes for a country that is inexhaustible, and eminently re-visitable.

Given my gastro-tourism & Tokyo-centric focus of the last few years, a pure-play tourist trip was overdue. I had essentially ‘forgotten’ the rest of the country. You can thank the folks for that – while my seventh time to Japan, it was their first. Spoiler alert: it’s your typical two-week, first-timer gotta-see-them-all kind of trip.

Sure was hella fun.

Date of trip: 14/Nov/2019 – 28/Nov/2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made by clicking on an affiliate link may earn a small commission for me, but never at extra cost for you. Please visit the Affiliate Marketing Policy for more information.

All experiences – food, accommodation and activities in this post were independently paid for.

This is a mini-series where each day of the trip has its own post. The focus is mainly pictorial so I’ll spare you the words – 85% of you don’t read the text anyway (oh, the irony of typing this out in words) – so for the sake of your scrolling, I’ll keep each entry to less than one thousand words. No finesse, eloquence, even a whiff of a well-thought-out metaphor. The raw stuff.

行ってきます!

Series Contents (TBC)

Day 1 – Hiroshima (introduction)Day 2 – Okayama/Kurashiki
Day 3 – OsakaDay 4 – Mount Koya
Day 5 – KyotoDay 6 – Kyoto
Day 7 – ArashiyamaDay 8 – Kyoto
Day 9 – UjiDay 10 – Hakone
Day 11 – HakoneDay 12 – Tokyo
Day 13 – TokyoDay 14 – Tokyo

Japan Day 1 – Arrival, Hiroshima, Kaiseki at Nakashima. Hey that rhymes!

You won’t believe me when I say this but Qantas pyjamas are actually more comfortable than any other pair of PJs I’ve worn.

There are many ways to get to Haneda, but doing in Qantas PJs is one of the better ways to go about it.

Instead of the typical ‘Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka’ triangle that most travellers undertake, I made the call to kick off from Hiroshima. Because what’s life without a bit of whimsy?

Ramen from Setagaya Ramen at Haneda International.

Of course, this still meant flying into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (the closer one – avoid Narita unless transiting). As such, we started day 1 supping salty, satisfying ramen at the airport while waiting for the Hiroshima flight – a first.

If Sydney to Melbourne is a brisk walk around the park, the flight to Hiroshima was a hugely rewarding sprint:

Mt Fuji
An ethereally beautiful view of Mt Fuji.

It’s one of the best images I’ve taken, the sheer luck (and sitting on the correct side of the plane) bringing about these conditions quite literally took my breath away. There’s no mountain quite like Fujisan.

  • Hiroshima Okonomiyaki
  • Hiroshima Okonomiyaki

I’m going to assume you know what okonomiyaki is. At Hiroshima, we had their version of the savoury pancake – hiroshimayaki – which differs in that the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together, with noodles comprising the base as opposed to flour. Wasted words if I said it was delicious, right?

Pro-tip: save your research time for higher-end restaurants and leave the cheap stuff to a bit of chance. This isn’t like getting a booking at Matsukawa – just hit up any spot with a big crowd and you’ll do fine. If you absolutely need a few starter recs, try Hasshou or Hassei.

Hiroshima Peace Park
A powerful and sombre reminder each time I go back.
Hiroshima Peace Park
View of the Hiroshima Peace Park and the A-bomb Dome from the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

We then spent quite some time at the Hiroshima Peace Park and the Peace Museum, which documents one of history’s most sombre, haunting, and tragic events: a mandatory location for all travellers and a reminder that some parts of history cannot be allowed to repeat.

  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima

Dinner was at a 3-Michelin Star restaurant called [Seasonal Cuisine] Nakashima (季節料理 なかしま), an excellent – albeit not mindblowing – showing of Hiroshima’s seasonality and locality translated into a progression of edible artworks. As the parentals’ first proper kaiseki experience, they were suitably impressed – and that’s all that really mattered in the end. I’d devote a whole blog post to this but I’d also like to win the lottery someday, so you’ll have to make do with an abridged caption-based review below.

Nakashima Hiroshima
Sake in Japan: delicious and cheap. The stuff sold in Australia is often 3-4x the price!
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima
  • Nakashima Hiroshima

This particular Japan trip was made all the more special as it was my first time here in autumn, and as such my first time seeing momiji (autumn foliage colours). It’s breathtaking stuff, something that we don’t really see in Sydney unless venturing out into regional areas. Dare I say it, it makes sakura season blush. Am I saying that cherry blossoms are overrated? Well no (and I sure copped some flak on social media for even suggesting it!), but then again…have you been to Japan in Spring recently? If hell is other people, well, Japan in Spring might be the prettiest version of perdition there is.

Hiroshima
Hiroshima’s autumnal foliage (momiji) was only the beginning of what we were to see on the trip.

This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made by clicking on an affiliate link may earn a small commission for me, but never at extra cost for you. Please visit the Affiliate Marketing Policy for more information.

All experiences – food, accommodation and activities in this post were independently paid for.

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