Ok, it's only two weeks until we go to Japan, we're getting ourselved organised (Cheryl got some yen today) and finalising everything, so I thought I might post our itinerary for you guys. The first week we're travelling with 25 other people from the SA and New Zealand dojos. We're flying out on Friday 12th on the 11:55am plane from Adelaide, arriving at Changi at 5:50pm. Then at 1am we leave Changi, arriving at Nagoya at 8:35am on Saturday morning.
After we've dropped out stuff off at the hotel, we're heading into Nagoya to see the Tokugawa museum. There's also a festival on in Nagoya, so we'll wander around that for a while.
On Sunday we're leaving at 8am to bus to Seki City. It's an area famous for it's blades.. it used to be swords, but now it's kitchen knives and the like as well. I'll be buying a sword there (I've pre-ordered one) and we have tameshigiri (bamboo-cutting) lessons. The guy teaching us apparently usually just does demos, so that should be really good. We're having lunch at a place famous for it's grilled eel, which Cheryl is very happy to hear. Then that evening we're training at the head dojo (which is a shrine) and meeting the Grand Master himself for dinner.
On Monday, again at 8am, we're catching the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Nagoya to Kyoto. Kyoto is the original capital of Japan, and so there should be some great old buildings to see. That evening we then train to Himeji city and check into a hotel there.
Tuesday we're touring Himeji castle and doing some sword classes on the lawn outside the castle. We had to get permission from the government to be able to do that, but because Himeji is a sister city to Adelaide and we're taking a letter from the Mayor to give to the officials there I guess we get special treatment. That afternoon we'll be going to a Zen temple to do meditation for an hour or so.
Wednesday we head to Hiroshima, to see Miyajima Island and the atomic bomb museum. Miyajima is a sacred island and used to be worshipped itself as a god. It's apparently an incredibly beautiful place, so it'll be great to see it.
Thursday we head to Kumamoto. We'll see Kumamoto castle, and also the cave where Miyamoto Musashi lived for several of his later years. He was a famous swordsman of the 1500s who was apparently undefeated, retired from fighting in his 30s to live at Kumamoto Castle, and then moved to the cave in his 50s and wrote his famous book, The Book of Five Rings. I'm really looking forward to seeing the cave, although we have to walk up a mountain to get there
Friday we head to Okayama, which is a sister state to South Australia. We have a letter from the Premier to present to the officials there. We'll also see traditional sword smithing, and have dinner with the Okayama Friendship Society.
On Saturday we're going to the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei, it's basically a big Kendo grading for all of Japan. We're doing a demo there for some insane reason, a group of Westerners showing Japanese swordsmen how good we are. No pressure. The we have a bit of time in an Edo period heritage town called Kurashiki.
On Sunday we seperate with the rest of the travellers, and make our way by Shinkansen to Tokyo. Our plans for this week aren't as definite, but we've got a few things we'd like to do. Sunday we'll drop our stuff off at the Ryukan (a traditional Japanese hotel with a futon, tatami mats on the floor, that kind of thing) and then either head off shopping or maybe just relax.
Monday we might check out the fish markets in the morning for fresh sushi, and then we're planning on heading to Kamakura. There's a famous giant buddha statue there, as well as a shrine to Hachiman, the Japanese god of war. It's apparently a more peaceful place, quite the contrast from Tokyo. I think it will be good to relax a little after the fast pace of the first week.
Tuesday we're heading north to Sendai, about 2 hours from the centre of Tokyo. There we'll be meeting Cheryl's pen pal Yuko and her husband Akira. We're staying at a Ryukan with hot springs there, another very relaxing time I think.
Wednesday we'll head back to Tokyo, and maybe check out one of the shopping districts. It depends on how long we spend in Sendai of course, and we're not completely sure what we'll be doing while we're there.
Thursday hopefully we'll go to the Ghibli museum. You have to book the tickets outside of Japan, and it's very popular, so it will depend on whether we can get tickets.. we'll find that out in the next couple of days. Studio Ghibli are an anime production company similar to Disney maybe? They do a lot of fantastic kids films, you might have seen Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle. It looks like the coolest museum.. it's got a cinema with three films unreleased outside the museum, and statues and all that, plus a rooftop garden.
Friday will be our real big shopping day. There's a 7 story shopping centre Cheryl wants to check out, and I suspect we'll easily spend the whole day there. It's probably best to have this day later in the week so we're not hauling around heaps of souvenirs as we go. Friday night we'll check into a hotel at Narita airport.
Saturday we fly out at 11:30am, arriving in Changi at 5:35pm. If we still have any money or energy left by then no doubt we'll do some shopping at Changi too, since we have 6 hours there before flying out at 11:45pm. Changi has cinemas, restaurants, it's a massive airport.
And then we arrive back in Adelaide on Sunday 28th, at 7:45 am.