Notes of a traveller

Alan Dodds – photographer (among other things)

Notes of a traveller

Japan – A Quick Visit

Posted on Saturday, December 9th, 2023 at 1:23 pm

The start of any journey is always interesting. Full of anticipation, plans all in place and a mix of excitement and some trepidation along the lines of “Will we be able to pull this off?”. We are thinking that this will be our first overseas trip since returning to Albany in WA.

So the first part of the journey goes something like this:-

Bags packed and loaded, eleven in the morning sees us at the start of our five or so hours drive to Perth. We aim to reach Perth in daylight so as to avoid any unexpected meetings with kangaroos in the forests of the Perth hills.

Supper with Helen and Michael before we go to the long term parking at Perth airport. Our flight leaves at 22:55 and we board with heavy eyes and enter the dream world of international travel. Transiting Hong in the early morning is painless but our onward flight is an hour late so we have arrived in Yokohama at four in the afternoon. Pretty weary by this time.

Keep up … we need our Japan Rail pass, get that at the JR East booth … then buy a ticket to Shinagawa on a local train. Why Shinagawa you ask? Because that’s where we get on the bullet train … what else would you do in Japan? And you can reserve seats ten minutes before the train arrives – exactly on time of course.

Two and a half hours later we arrive in Kyoto and trundle our cases to the hotel, luckily only one hundred metres away. It’s now eight thirty and to say the least we are somewhat tired. Not surprising, I suppose, since we seem to have been travelling non stop for the last thirty three hours.

We’re getting too old for this! (Or are we?)

Finding food, now there’s a thing. More of that later.

Around and about in Kyoto

We have wanted to see Kyoto for a long time. A short visit for a conference in 1992 wetted my appetite, and the old capital of Japan is a draw for many visitors, with it’s plethora of temples and gardens. Our first decision is to catch the Hop On – Hop off bus … a new experience for us.

Japan bullet train in Shinagawa

The Bullet Train. We travel at 320km/hr (200mph in the old money). Wow!
Japan, Kyoto station

Kyoto Station. With such a good public transport system the station reflects the huge number of passengers that pass through it.
Japan, Kyoto Tower

As we walk out to find food the 130m Kyoto Tower is impressive.
Japan Kyoto hop on bus

Haven’t quite got the hand of these selfie things yet, but it’s a beautiful day to hop about in Kyoto to get ahead of things.

Our first stop is the Kinkakuji or Golden Temple. A retirement home for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, it became a Zen Buddhist temple in 1408. It has been burned down numerous times and the current model was rebuilt in 1955.

It is all very organised, in one end and out the other taking an hour or two to complete the circuit. It is a beautiful day to be visiting with not too many people.

Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

The very impressive Golden Temple. We thought the Grey Heron was a model until, after five minutes, it turned it’s head slightly.
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

And here we all are taking our Selfies!
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

The very low key souvenir shop.
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

Ancient steps disappear up the hill.
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

Lots of steps – time to rest. Jacqui looks to see how much further
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

A small temple still very much in use.
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

All those steps up inevitably lead to all those steps down.
Japan, Kinkakuji Golden Temple

Simplicity of design seems to be the theme in Japan.
Japan, Kyoto

Everything is just so, even in the snack shops.
Japan, Kyoto

Just love these traditional roof tiles, more just so-ness
Japan, Kyoto station

Underneath Kyoto station is the world of food. Small restaurants line the subway.
Japan, Kyoto station

Takeaway anyone?
Japan, Kyoto station

Loved the food and the way it was delivered. Note the tablet on the left which is for ordering.

Onto the Westerdam in Yokohama

After three nights in Kyoto and another bullet train and taxi ride, we are now aboard the Westerdam for our twenty eight night cruise through to Singapore. The locals make a big event of the ship leaving port with waving lights and music. It is quite a send off.


Leaving the lights of Yokohama as the sun set.

I love the way we so often leave a port around sunset.

Oh yes … and the full moon rises at sunset. Quite a send off all round.


We have no expectations for our visit to Osaka. For many people, this is the jumping off point for a visit to Kyoto, but since we have already been there we decide we will just get off the ship and see what happens. This is one of the good things about a cruise … in most places the crew takes cares of all the immigration details and so we can simply walk down the gangplank and wander off into the distance only bearing in mind the “all aboard” time. Don’t want to get left anywhere, do we?

To begin with, it seems we have arrived in the dark, with a quite spectacular light show courtesy of the huge carousel (or observation wheel or ferris wheel or what ever you want to call it). Anyway it’s right next to the cruise terminal and definitely can’t be missed as we approach.

Japan, Osaka

A splendid, ever changing light show greets us.
Japan, Osaka

Those on the tour to Kyoto for the day have to get an early start. The buses await.
Japan, Osaka

So … how many workers does it take to get a ships rope onto a bollard? No cost cutting here!
Japan, Osaka

Mmmm … looks like we are definitely in Japan.
Japan, Osaka

Interesting street art too.
Japan, Osaka

Remember the jingle that an ice cream van makes? Well here they use that same jingle for the “eco friendly” waste collection carts.
Japan, Osaka

In a quiet back street we come across a small Buddhist temple.
Japan, Osaka

It’s very much used and well cared for.
Japan, Osaka

No sign of neglect here, Quite the opposite. While we are there, two women bring fresh flowers.
Japan, Osaka

Time for a rest.
Japan, Osaka

The back streets really are quiet here – we are in the middle of Osaka.
Japan, Osaka

The local florist.
Japan, Osaka

No smoking on the streets here. If you really have to there are small, well marked, enclosures to stand in.
Japan, Osaka

Fancy a tour of Osaka Harbour?
Japan, Osaka

Just love the iPhone wide angle lens. If you look carefully, ours is the cabin to the left of the person standing on a balcony.


It’s interesting how easy it is to ignore things. Like, I always knew that Japan was made up of a number of islands but – more than 14,000? Wow, that’s a lot of islands.

And then, unless you actually look for them, it is really easy to miss the long string between the main islands and Taiwan. I hadn’t really taken on that after Osaka, that was where we are headed. First to one of the bigger islands, Okinawa, which was the site of the last big battle of World War II: the Battle of Okinawa. A lot of people died in that battle. Then on to Ishigaki, a much smaller island towards the end of the chain.

Japan, okinawa Naha

The long string of Japanese islands to the south west of the main islands. Top right, Osaka, centre Okinawa (Naha), bottom left, Ishigaki. (Image – Google Earth)
Japan Naha Okinawa

The Naha Cruise Terminal, Okinawa
Japan Naha Okinawa

There seem to be one or two taxis waiting in a very orderly queue. We caught the local shuttle into town for the princely sum of $2.
Japan Naha Okinawa

Inevitably, we end up in a market where, once again, everything is just so.
Japan Naha Okinawa

Since gift giving is a very Japanese trait, we are told, everything comes beautifully wrapped.
Japan Naha Okinawa

Can’t think what they sell here.

These Dogs are very Okinawan. The open mouth either lets out the good or scares away the bad. The closed mouth either keeps in the good or keeps out the bad. Anyway, they are everywhere you look.
Japan Naha Okinawa

Lots of variations on this theme and seemingly very popular.
Japan Naha Okinawa

This restaurant has an interesting way of enticing you in.
Japan Naha Okinawa

Just love this puffer fish lamp. Aren’t puffer fish poisonous? Do you think they serve them here? Apparently so!
Japan Naha Okinawa

Japan’s very popular answer to the SUV.


The next island we are to visit is Ishigaki, the main island in the Yaeyama Group. These islands are very much about tropical beaches, snorkelling, diving, kayaking or hiking. High speed ferries constantly ply between them.

Japan, Ishigaki

A friendly tug dances in circles as the ship nudges up to the wharf.
Japan, Ishigaki

The tug even greets us in english.
Japan, Ishigaki

One of the high speed island ferries.
Japan, Ishigaki

Waiting in a humid 32C for the shuttle into town.
Japan, Ishigaki

The Japanese sense of design is displayed everywhere. (Just noticed that it’s an unintentional selfie)
Japan, Ishigaki

A small temple entrance beckons to us across the road.
Japan, Ishigaki

Inside the temple grounds a sense of peace and order.
Japan, Ishigaki

Dressed for the occasion.
Japan, Ishigaki

Those roof tiles again.
Japan, Ishigaki

Across from the temple, steps invite us into a small roadside garden.
Japan, Ishigaki

Somehow we seem to end up in a coffee shop. This tiny backstreet cafe has definitely worked out how we like it. And free WiFi of course.
Japan, Ishigaki

On the pointy end at sunset.

Occasionally they open up the deck on the pointy bit at the front of the ship. This time it is a perfect place to enjoy the sunset as we sail off towards Taiwan and the Philippines.

We have really enjoyed Japan and the welcome we have received from everyone here. Our only regret is that this part of our adventure has ended so soon. I feel that we will be back for a longer visit.

More to come 🙂



16 responses to “Japan – A Quick Visit”

  1. Lynn Ayiotis says:

    Wonderful account of your trip as always. The Bullet train looked amazing very high tech! Xx

  2. Lynn Ayiotis says:

    Wonderful account of your trip as always. The Bullet train looked amazing xx

  3. Eni says:

    Your Japan peaceful and ‘just so’ pics and reflections are enticing a visit….especially as I read Thailand, Viet etc notes first!

    Thank you both for your travels and sharing- I get to visit some of these places vicariously through you.
    Much love, Eni

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Exquisite images! Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  5. Barb says:

    Thanks Alan Enjoyed xxx

  6. Tony Dodds says:

    Once again superb pics and interesting info and as you know I’m very envious because that was on my bucket list while in Hong Kong. I’m sure you were both in your element while wandering around those back streets and temples. Another wonderful trip with yet more happy memories.

  7. Mary says:

    Fantastic photos and what a journey; never daunted.
    I particularly like the Golden Temple.

  8. Danielle says:

    Thanks Alan for this tour of Japan and photos. It sounds like you had a very good time… And will be getting back there sometimes.
    A big hug to you both.

  9. Sandy Roderique says:

    Well done, what an adventure…and NO, you two are not too old! We love Japan. xx Sandy & Mark

  10. Sue+Keast says:

    Fantastic photos once again Alan and great narrative brought back memories of our trips to Japan. Just love your travel blogs so interesting and informative.

  11. Regina Synnot says:

    Well,you two.i am delighted,you are back doing your cruise thing and having such a lovely time.the children and I tried to ring you a while ago but had no idea you were on the move until Zoe told me.japan is on my bucket list as well and looks gorgeous. Big hugs and another Christmas without momo and grandie. Bit of a bummer,but I am rosters to work,so will be busy. Big hugs to you both.

  12. Andrew says:

    Another lovely looking journey. Wonderful pictures that always give a sense of intimacy and a feel of the places you visit.
    I have been on Holland America and found it to be great. Your cruise looks like something I would like to do too. Look forward to more posts from this trip!

  13. Helen says:

    😍So interesting 💕

  14. Tracey Rehe says:

    Oh wow. Thankyou for the stories Alan. You two look so joyful travelling around. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year as you continue on your journey. Arohanui, Tracey xo

  15. Terry says:

    Just what I needed to take myself out of myself. You guys are relentlessly inspiring. I’ll take Clare to Japan when she wakes up.
    Take care.

  16. David Steward says:

    What a wonderful world we live in, which many of us have never seen. Stunning photography and interesting story lines. Brings me back to when Josie visited Japan on BOAC and we were thinking of buying a Japanese bedroom sweet in the early sixties. Well done Jacqui and brother in law Alan. Keep the travel stories coming. Regards David.

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