Recently we got a fantastic email from 12-year-old Kealan and nine-year-old Neesha Clarke from Sydney. They’ve been travelling Japan with their parents and stopped in at Niseko. The youngsters are very handy on a snowboard and Kealan showed us he’s got a bright future as a writer too. Below is an article he sent us describing in beautiful detail their travels around Japan… forget Lonely Planet, this is all you need! Thanks, guys and keep up the good work!
Starting off in Sapporo, you should see the ice festival which takes place in February. At the festival,there are ice sculptures which are made of different Japanese cartoon characters. At night they are lit up and look wonderful.
I started my journey using the JR pass. This allows you to travel freely on the japan railways.You catch the train to Niseko and enjoy the scenery of the mountains and the ocean. If you are lucky, you may see a surfer catching waves while it is snowing. Nieseko is a great ski resort; the mountain has the best powder snow. The resort is open from 8:00am to 9:00pm. I really recommend going snowboarding or skiing at night as the lights make the mountain look like a scene from a fairy tale. The closest town is Kutchan-which has a lovely Japanese style. I found this great place called the Loaf Lounge where you can pay one thousand yen ($10) to use the indoor skate park, or have a game of pool or just watch a sports movie.
Our next stop is Kakunodate, this is known as the little Kyoto. Arriving here you are able to rent a bike to ride around the town visting the Samurai district. I was amazed by the armour the men wore when fighting. The Samurai swords were a work of art. This district dates back to the 17th century. If you have time to stay during late April for sakura (cherry blossom festival), wander down by the river where there is a cherry blossom tunnel of flowers.
Back on the train in the afternoon, we were on our way to Kyoto. This town was settled in 794 A.D. and was once the capital of Japan. My favourite site was the Nijo castle, which has the nightingale hall. The floors were designed to squeak, so that if an intruder walked through the halls it would alert the guards. The floors squeaked no matter how softly I stepped. The next day, Natsumi a friend of ours took us to Kamigamo-jinja, which is a world heritage listed temple. I felt like a movie star there. There were Japanese students on excursion there who took photos of me.The temple dates back to 679 A.D. This is the first place where I saw a monk wandering the tranquil gardens. There are many more amazing temples in Kyoto.
This should be a day of peace. We’re on our way to Hiroshima where I learnt about the 6th of August, 1945 8:15am, when the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The peace museum is a place everyone should visit at least once in their life time. The music is haunting; the images unforgettable, the flame outside the Hiroshima museum will burn until peace is within the world. While in Hiroshima you must also go to the Mazda factory (Zoom Zoom Zoom). The Mazda factory shows how a production line assembles cars. The employees are hard working and they are kept interested by management who put different cars in the line. The factory also shows the history from the first car to their latest cars and how the rotary engine works.
Shinahama. The locals say this beautiful beach has lovely white sand brought all the way from Australia. At the end of the beach there is a rocky out crop. There is a wonderful onsen on the rocks that looks out to sea. An onsen is a hot bath where you are required to wash yourself thoroughly before entering. The water can be hotter than 40c but it’s the most relaxing and healthiest bath.
Now it’s on to Adventure World, the first place where a Giant panda has been bred outside of China. The dolphin and whale show is magnificent. Torii in Miyashima is the most popular Japanese photo site.When you alight from the ferry, the deer are hungry and any paper you are holding is quickly devoured. You should see the giant wooden rice spoon while it is on display. Returning to the train is fantastic as Japanese trains arrive and leave on time; the staff are helpful, happy and bow as they leave the carriage. The train travels at speeds up to 260km an hour.
Nara which was once the political capital of Japan. The number one attraction there is the great Buddha which is under the largest wooden structure in the world. On my arrival a group of at least a hundred monks were making their way to the temple to pray – they threw coloured paper leaves to the gathering crowd. Inside the building, one of the timber supports is hollowed out and by climbing through the hollow timber you are said to be enlightened Back to Tokyo where staying with friends is the best idea if you are lucky enough. The railway and the subway make travelling in Tokyo a dream.
Chiba is where we were introduced to the Japanese surfing culture. The water was freezing at first, but you are encouraged by the friendly Japanese locals to venture into the water so that they can practice their English.
We visited a type of fair which we called speakers corner and we met the Bohemian Japanese. There was a good vibe because there was theatre being performed. A few Japanese were holding signs offering free hugs. I accepted lots of hugs.
Then we visited the John Lennon museum. He was from the famous band the Beatles. John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono, a famous artist and peace activist, organized the museum as a tribute to their views on peace. The Museum has some interesting artifacts like a one coloured chess board which said ‘Play With Trust’.Yoko Ono will some times ring on an exhibited phone, you are allowed to answer and talk to her.
Disneyland is something you have to do because it is good fun for all ages. There are thrills, spills and a lot more. The Natural History Museum at Ueno, has a wonderful 3D movie.
The Japanese are the most welcoming people. They laugh, they encourage and are always polite. The food is interesting and delicious. Stay as long as possible.