We had known that Japan would be very expensive so we planned to spend only 2 weeks there. After all of our cheap travelling in the developing world the prices came as a bit of a shock! But Japan was a cool place to see and very safe and easy to travel in.
When we arrived in Tokyo we were outraged at having to spend over 7 pounds each to get a train from the airport to the city centre close to the hostel we had booked. The same amount would have got both of us a night train sleeper ticket in India covering hundreds of miles! And the hostel was also expensive, but very well equipped and we were able to cook dinner there so this saved us some money! Tokyo was a cool city. All the houses were very nice and the streets were all quite quiet even though they were busy. The weather in Japan was pretty cold and often rainy.
We spent a few days exploring Tokyo. One morning we got up early for the fish market which was pretty fun to walk around, although we couldn't afford any of the very fresh sushi! We also visited some big shopping districts, some temples, the red light district and the Sony building where all the latest sony technology is displayed. From Tokyo we got a night bus to Kyoto. As the travel is expensive in Japan we had decided not to try and travel too far, and this was our longest journey costing us nearly 60 pounds each! The bus was pretty luxurious though with airline style seats but lots more leg room than an aeroplane and with complimentary slippers! It was a very smooth journey and we didn't sleep too badly.
Our hostel in Kyoto was not as good as the one in Tokyo, it had a very friendly owner but he had a very loud voice and there was not much in the way of kitchen and bathroom facilities. Eddie had a 'clever' plan for cooking us some noodles on the first night with some hot water and a microwave. Needless to say it didn't taste very good (it was barely edible), but it didn't make us ill! Kyoto was a nice city with a lot of temples. They were very nice but there were so many of them! We were in Japan at the blossom time of year which is very popular with the Japanese and you rarely see a tree in blossom without a Japanese person (or several) posing for a photo in front of it! It was very beautiful though. We had a good day trip out to a village in the mountains just outside of Kyoto which was very pretty. We also visited an onsen, the Japanese baths. There are lots of hot springs in Japan and therefore lots of onsen. We went to an indoor onsen as it was cheaper than an outdoor one which would probably have been very beautiful! Men and womens baths are separate and everyone has to go naked. There were several different baths, including an indoor one, an outdoor one, a cold one, a herbal one and a sauna. It was relaxing but very hot!
After Kyoto we took a short train to Nara. Our day in Nara was our only sunny day in Japan, but it was the perfect day for sunshine as we were wandering around a big park with many temples and also many deer! We had a good picnic Sushi lunch as well. From Nara we headed to Osaka (where we were flying out of). Osaka was quite different to the other places we had seen, a big working city with not so much in the way of temples which was quite refreshing. We stayed in a cheap hotel (by Japanese standards) in a fairly seedy area opposite a homeless shelter. Our room consisted of a big tatami mat and two flat mattresses and bedding. There weren't showers but a men's bath and a women's bath which were very similar to the onsen, and were only open for 5 hours a day in the evening. There was no option for cooking here so we finally did some eating out. The first night we went to a sushi place, one where the fish comes round on a conveyor belt in front of you. We managed to eat quite a lot of raw fish (some of it nice, some not!) for not too much money. Osaka had some exciting areas to explore at night with lots of shops and restaurants and very busy with people.
On our last day we got a rail pass for the day and went to Himeji, a town with a famous castle and some nice gardens surrounding it. From here we took a train to Kobe, a seaside city. It was very different to English seaside, with lots of big skyscrapers next to the sea, but it was nice to see the sea. We got a train back to Osaka and then another to the airport. Our flight wasn't until the following morning but as accommodation was so expensive and our flight would have meant an early start anyway, we thought we would save some money by sleeping in the airport! It was a fairly comfortable nights sleep, not quite as nice as Hong Kong airport though and we were disturbed by the police asking to check our passports! The next morning we flew to Shanghai.